California should lift a quarter of its water diversions for irrigation in the year beginning in June

More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply

By Andrew McQuade, University of Texas at Austin

(—California should follow the lead of neighboring Nevada and Washington state and lift a quarter of its water diversions for irrigation in the year beginning in June, state officials say, as they unveil a raft of new policies intended to reduce use of the Colorado River to supply water to the four states.

The California Public Water Commission gave preliminary approval for the new policies during its annual meeting on Monday in Sacramento.

The new water diversions—ranging from 40 percent in Kern County to 85 percent in San Jose—would be in addition to the 25 percent water diversions already being implemented by the state during the first five months of 2012.

A key change to the state’s water policy and a major goal of those policy changes is to increase the use of regional water resources in northern California, where the Colorado River provides 80 percent of the water that the other three states use to support agriculture, communities and the environment.

“This is not the end of water diversions, but it is a signal that we have a plan for water diversions,” said Dave McCurdy, executive deputy executive director of the California Public Water Commission.

By putting the restrictions on the water supply in place, Californians will start to understand more about the amount of water available to them, he said.

“We don’t want to take away from agriculture when we have the opportunity to maintain agriculture,” McCurdy said.

The new restrictions will come into effect on June 1, McCurdy said. In California, state-issued water permits can last up to 20 years.

That new policy, the first of its kind in the nation, will not result in the curtailment of water exports from the Colorado River—the largest water delivery system in the Western Hemisphere.

The rules are designed to reduce the amount of water that the state

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