In fact, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered an “emergency curtailment” that would effectively cut off thousands of farmers from the river watersheds. The board was sued for their discriminatory curtailment orders during the last drought, but they are rushing ahead this time around.
The State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled for an emergency meeting on August 3rd. The board’s vote will determine whether farmers and ranchers have the water they need to see their crops and their livestock through. The board’s executive director, Eileen Sobeck, said there is not enough water “to meet all of the legitimate demands” and believes the government’s rationing efforts are necessary.
She said, “We don’t take this action lightly; we know that it’s going to impose hardships on folks.” Of course, these hardships will trickle down to cattle sell-offs, food shortages and rising grocery prices. According to the board members, the farmers will still be allowed just enough water for their “basic human needs” – an allotment that will be determined by government officials.
This year, the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project have already limited how much water families can use. The latest order will stop farmers from receiving water from the river sheds.
“We’re trying to protect drinking water supplies; we’re trying to protect endangered fish in the system,” said Sobeck. Environmental experts warn that the winter-run of Chinook salmon could be decimated if the water is not rationed and allocated by the state. Once the order is given, farmers and ranchers will be forced to watch their cattle suffer and the crops wither, because the survival of the local fish population takes precedence. The State Water Board had already prepared farmers across the region to accept their fate after they issued formal “notices of water unavailability” in mid-June.
“We have really tried to walk that line of not wanting to invoke new measures that are going to have a significant effect ... unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Sobeck lamented. The Secretary of State for the Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, has already confirmed that the cutoff will be worth it. She said the cutoff would hurt food production, but the water rationing is “absolutely necessary” to preserve the best interests of the state. (Related: California moves to regulate private agricultural wells, constrict water usage and control food production.)
The state is now using curtailment orders to discriminate against certain groups of farmers, depriving them of basic resources. With this power, the state can use water supplies as a weapon and can allocate water in a discriminate manner, as political agendas dictate water allocation. During the last drought, this small group of board members got together and issued curtailment orders on certain groups of farmers. The board was able to stifle their operations, depriving them of due process to protest the government overreach.
The board’s action was determined to be illegal and a Sacramento Superior Court Judge even issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the State Water Resources Control Board from blocking water supplies to four irrigation companies West Side Irrigation District, Central Delta Water Agency, South Delta Water Agency and Woods Irrigation Co. This time around, the Board is set to repeat their offenses and move in a more deliberate, cold and calculated manner, cutting off water sources from thousands of farmers and ranchers.