As California residents face strict water consumption restrictions as the mega-drought persists through the region, water is mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Many are placing blame on Delta farmers who say they will use as much water as they need because they historically have received “senior water rights.”
The Daily Mail reports that despite water restrictions, large amounts of water is mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Many in the community are pointing fingers at the farmers in the Delta, as they claim they have senior rights to the water in the area because they have tilled the land for generations.
The state of California is investigating the issue after two separate water supply agencies complained of missing water. However, due to California’s 100-year old water rights system, Delta farmers can use as much water as they please, even in a drought situation. The farmers are very vocal about their “senior water rights” and claim that they will continue to use as much water as they need, regardless of the water crisis in the state. Delta farmer Rudy Mussi says that if he has surplus water he would share it, but says he won’t stand for anyone with “junior water rights” taking his water.
“If there’s surplus water, hey, I don’t mind sharing it. I don’t want anybody with junior water rights leapfrogging my senior water rights just because they have more money and more political clout.”
Fox News notes that Delta farmers do not have to report how much water they are using because they have legal rights to it. The farmers say they can use as much water as they need because they have a long history of living on the water’s edge which gives them a senior right to the water. The water reporting is done on an honor system, but California officials are asking for the farmers to now report how much water they are pumping, along with proof of their legal right to the water.
The California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says that reporting from the farmers is necessary so that they can determine who is using what and if anyone is exceeding the amount offered in their water rights.
“In this drought period, water accounting is more important to ensure that the water is being used for its intended purpose.”
Do you think farmers with “senior water rights” should be forced to report and prove their ownership of water they are pumping? Should the century-old water rights system be updated considering the mega-drought California is facing?
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Justin Sullivan]