Drought-stricken California on Friday ordered the largest cuts on record to farmers holding some of the state's strongest water rights.
State water officials told more than a hundred senior rights holders in California's Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds to stop pumping from those waterways.
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The move by the State Water Resources Control Board marked the first time that the state has forced large numbers of holders of senior-water rights to curtail use. Those rights holders include water districts that serve thousands of farmers and others.
The move shows California is sparing fewer and fewer users in the push to cut back on water using during the state's four-year drought.
"We are now at the point where demand in our system is outstripping supply for even the most senior water rights holders," Caren Trgovcich, chief deputy director of the water board.
The order applies to farmers and others whose rights to water were staked more than a century ago. Many farmers holding those senior-water rights contend the state has no authority to order cuts.
The reductions are enforced largely on an honor system because there are few meters and sensors in place to monitor consumption. California already has ordered cuts in water use by cities and towns and by many other farmers.
The move Friday marked the first significant mandatory cuts because of drought for senior water rights holders since the last major drought in the late 1970s.