It's no joke that the South West was and is populated on water availability and many people fought and died over water rights way back when.
Historically, the earliest water rights holders had first come, first served status. Some of the earliest water rights holders date clear back to the Gold Rush days.
It looks like The Peoples State of Kalifornia is going to try and temporarily end that due to the severity of the drought.
This is not unexpected.
For the first time in nearly 40 years, California regulators are telling more than 100 irrigation districts and others with some of the oldest water rights in the state that they have to stop pumping supplies from drought-starved rivers and streams in the Central Valley.
The curtailment order, issued Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board, has been expected for weeks. The board earlier this spring halted diversions by some 9,000 junior rights holders. With snowmelt reduced to a trickle this year, there simply isn’t enough water flowing in rivers to meet the demand of all those with even older rights predating 1914.
The last time regulators ordered those with pre-1914 water rights to stop diversions was in the punishing 1976-77 drought.
Though there is precedent for senior curtailments, it is likely that Friday’s order will spark appeals to the board as well as legal challenges. “People are so dug into their rights that regardless of what we do, it’s likely they will ask for a rehearing,” Delta Watermaster Michael George said last month. “There’s going to be lots of litigation coming out of this.”
In California and the West, most rights to surface water are based on when the water was first diverted and used, a system known as “first in time, first in right.” The oldest claims date to the Gold Rush era, when miners sucked water from streams and used it to blast gold out of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The state didn’t start issuing water diversion permits until 1914, the dividing line between senior and junior rights.