The Friant Water Authority has, with reservations, stated support of state action related to the water supply that comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.

The State Water Resources Control Board issued an emergency order on Tuesday that cuts off water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed to thousands of water rights holders to that supply.

On Tuesday, the state board took the emergency action to bar thousands of farmers, landowners and other from pumping water from the Delta. The emergency order will go into effect on August 16. Those who continue to pump water from the watershed face fines.

The state board made the decision despite numerous irrigation districts saying they don't have the authority to do so.

And while the FWA came out with a statement in support of the state board's action, it stated the action should only be temporary. And the FWA also referred to the “illegal” diversion of water from the Delta that goes to protect fish and environmental interests.

But despite the “illegal” diversion of water, FWA chief executive officer Jason Phillips stated the FWA supports the state board's actions with reservation, adding it's critical the state water board protects “south-of-Delta” demands in this area. The FWA oversees the Friant-Kern Canal.

This spring and summer, it became clear to many in the California water community that Federal and State project water stored in upstream reservoirs, and which is being released to meet critical water supply and water quality needs for humans and the ecosystem, is largely being diverted illegally in the Delta,” Phillips stated. “These diversions are happening for weeks or even months at a time when there is little-to-no natural Delta inflow, which means that the water supply available is insufficient to support legal diversions by most water rights holders in the Delta.”

Phillips went on to say the state board's decision appears “to some to be adding fuel to a fire.” But Phillips adds FWA believes the decision is “a first step to ensure that those diverters without legal rights to an already limited water supply adhere to the State’s water rights system.”

Phillips went on to say the state needs to protect the interests of this area. “During one of the driest water years on record statewide, it is critical that – at a minimum — the SWRCB protect this water that has been legally stored and should be used this year for meeting” storage needs and “south-of-Delta demands.”

Phillips added “for this reason, FWA is supportive of the SWRCB acting to exercise its responsibility to curtail these unauthorized diversions” to project previously stored water.

But Phillips also said “until and unless hydrologic conditions dictate that the emergency curtailments should be extended” the emergency order should expire at the end of September.

When it comes to the “illegal” diversions, SJV Water reported at the July 20 Westlands Water District Board meeter it was estimated there could be as much as 4,000 CFS of additional flows into the Delta if those diversions were stopped.

There are 5,000 people and entities who won 9,000 rights to water coming into the Delta. Those rights were issued after 1914. There are many other rights that were issued before 1914.

There are 9,000 rights to river water coming into the delta held by 5,000 different people or entities, Water Board Director Sobeck said. And that’s just rights issued by the board after 1914. There are also countless other rights issued before 1914.

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