State Water Officials Preparing To Make Emergency Cutbacks To Growers And Ranchers – CBS Sacramento

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The trickle-down effect from our devastating drought has farmers warning consumers that they should brace themselves.

New rules are likely to go in place Tuesday telling farmers they can’t pump– out of local rivers. What could that mean?

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As California’s drought worsens, state water officials are preparing to take emergency action to conserve.

“It was a very dry winter and not all water rights are going to be satisfied this year,” said Chris Scheuring with the California Farm Bureau Federation.

He says growers and ranchers will be the hardest hit.

“The widest swath of the state’s farmland is potentially at issue here,” he said.

If passed, the emergency regulations would restrict pumping water out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries. The goal is to protect downstream water quality and flow requirements. The rules could even impact some senior water rights holders — those whose claims date back to the early 1900s.

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“It’s a more severe curtailment action than we have seen in a long time, if ever,” said Scheuring.

Some farmers are switching to groundwater to help replace the dwindling river supplies. But for others, their fields could now dry up. California rice growers didn’t want to comment before the vote but say they’ve already taken 100,000 acres out of production this year — that’s 20-percent of their overall annual crop. And consumers could see the effects of the water cutbacks in stores soon.

“It could mean we are importing tomatoes when we would be growing them here. It could mean a reduced availability or greater price, all those sorts of ripple effects are sort of hard to predict” he said.

Many farmers expected these cuts would eventually come – but now there’s growing concern about another dry winter.

The real question is what happens to us all of us in California if next year is like this year.

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If passed, the new regulations would take effect later this month. Under California law, anyone caught diverting water could face fines up to
$1,000 per day.

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