Originally published August 20 2015
California now a water police state: State orders farmers not to water crops, violating century-old water rights
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) As California's drought worsens and the availability of potable water continues to decline quickly, regulators in the state have become increasingly strict in imposing rules and fines in order to conserve what water remains.
To do so, state drought regulators have gone to the extreme in recent days, proposing a first-of-its-kind fine of $1.5 million on a group of farmers they insist took water illegally.
As reported by The Associated Press, the fine, announced July 20 by the State Water Resources Control Board, is the first time a fine would be levied against an individual or district that retained senior water rights that are more than 100 years old, and which have historically provided them with immunity from mandatory water conservation requirements.
In other words, the state board is now insisting that historic water rights – which these farmers have owned for a century – are no longer valid, and any use over what the board has imposed is now, suddenly, "illegal."
As the AP further noted:
The fine follows months of unprecedented cutback orders to communities, businesses and the powerful agriculture industry during the fourth year of the devastating dry spell in California.
The state is fighting off court challenges to its authority to control water use and doubts over whether it has the resources to enforce its orders.
The board has levied the gargantuan fine against the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, one that serves 160 farming families along with a planned suburban community of about 12,000 in the state's Central Valley region. Water board prosecutor Andrew Tauriainen said the water district was outspoken about continually taking the water "illegally," and that the district essentially ought to be punished with a huge fine as a message to others.
Russell Kagehiro, president of the Byron-Bethany Board, fired back, saying the state water officials were making an uninformed example of his district to the detriment of water customers and farmers, both of whom will suffer to the tune of $65 million in crop losses under cuts California officials are demanding. In recent weeks, the district has filed suit in court in a bid to preserve its historic water rights and access.
"Farmers have to sort of weigh the cost of losing that crop, I guess, against potential fines," Jeffrey Michael, an economist at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, told the AP.
Opponents of the state's actions say officials have no precedent or authority to force them to conserve water because their rights to the water predate modern water permitting systems established in 1914. So far, there haven't been any court rulings over the issue.
Stricter measures will come as drought worsens
Still, water board officials are doubling down on their fining effort, saying they plan to issue more penalties, and more orders, by summer's end to stop the taking of water. So far, the board has sent out some 9,000 notices throughout the Central Valley that contain a warning nearly every Californian knows: The state is running dangerously low on water.
That hasn't stopped the drawing of water by other districts, and that includes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the AP said. That entity has said it plans to divert water for Camp Mather near Yosemite Park, a city-operated facility, unless or until it receives an order to stop.
As Natural News reported a year ago, so-called "water wars" in California have already begun. Neighbors are stealing water from neighbors, as other thieves illegally tap into fire hydrants and water storage tanks.
These thefts will continue, but so, too, will strict actions by state governments and local water boards. As supplies continue to dwindle, so, too, will the patience of those in power; it won't matter how long a rights holder has had a legitimate claim on their water – the state will take it, or limit access to it – in any way possible, including fines and jail time, if necessary.
Due to pollution of water, drought and declining water sources, it is increasingly important to begin thinking of solutions to your own water woes, including the use of water filters; to find more information on water filters go to WaterFilters.news
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