In the state of California, senior water rights holders are those farmers whose access to the state’s various watersheds have been in place for over 100 years. By long-standing agreements, senior water rights holders have unfettered access to the water for the sustainment of their farms. In many cases, they do not even have water meters attached to their water systems. That said, the state’s water drought is so severe that the State Water Resources Control Board took the unprecedented move of infringing on those water rights by ordering farmers to cease accessing water from the San Joaquin, Sacramento, and delta watersheds.
The move is legally questionable, as Matt Landis points out. It is also uncertain whether the people with senior water rights will even bother to comply. They counter that the state lacks the authority to infringe on their access to the water. Nor is it certain how the state would force compliance. It’s not as if they have the ability to monitor the water use of many of those farmers. However, Caren Trgovcich, the water board’s chief deputy director, admitted that more water is being drawn out of those water systems than is going into them. In all fairness, residents, businesses, and farms across the state have had their water usage reduced. It appears that some farmers in the San Joaquin Valley will be taking legal action against the water board. They claim that without the water, their fruit trees will perish.