California officials today announced that farmers with water rights going back more than a century will be forced to cut back their water use, as the severe, ongoing drought in the Golden State continues.
Some farmers have water rights dating back to 1903
As The New York Times reports, the water use for so-called "senior rights" holders, with claims going back as far as 1903, will be curtailed. The farmers, in California's San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds and delta, haven't faced such restrictions since 1977, when another major drought roiled the state. Moreover, as the summer — and the water shortage — continues, the restrictions will tighten.
The move, although monumental, wasn't entirely unexpected. In April, California Governor Edmund "Jerry" Brown implemented mandatory, statewide restrictions for water use, while water use for some "junior" rights holders, who staked claims after 1914, has already been restricted, according to the Los Angeles Times. Last month, in the hope of staving off stricter cutbacks, some farmers pre-emptively laid out a plan to cut their water use by 25 percent.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the impact of the restrictions will vary in the more than 100 irrigation districts they'll effect. Districts will have to cease pumping from rivers and streams in the state's Central Valley, but some will be able to use water in storage or a groundwater supply. Still, the order could very well result in lawsuits from the agriculture industry.