California to reduce water supply as drought continues

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

Updated

The US government has already restricted water use at the highest levels in the Lower Colorado River Basin, but now California has announced it is targeting up to 90 per cent lower pumping capacity for two years to address the effects of the drought.

As the water levels in the Lower Colorado River plummet, it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to access water for irrigation at a time when demand for water is rising for agricultural and municipal purposes in California.

State officials announced that they have decided on a $723m plan to use water from the rivers that rise along the eastern seaboard to supply the growing demand in California.

It comes after a federal commission recommended conservation and voluntary restrictions on the use of water in California’s western states and the central Pacific region, and the state’s attorney general called for the state and federal governments to increase their efforts to reduce the flow of water from the rivers in the central West.

“The federal commission’s recommendation is a great step forward and a strong signal of the seriousness of the drought,” said Tom Gallegos, executive director of the Western Caucus, a group of water-focused politicians.

“It is encouraging that California is going to work cooperatively to address issues like this, but it’s also important that there is an understanding that we need to maintain some water even in dry years, particularly in the Central Valley.”

But the governor of California’s most populous state, Jerry Brown, said that as the drought continues his state will have to use its lower capacity to ensure its water supply is maintained.

“In the state of California, my message to our farmers is that we have to use less water”, he said at the National Press Club in Washington DC. “I will be very clear about that.”

The California Water Project, which delivers water to California citizens, has said that it is already limited to up to 75 per cent of its normal supplies and will have to use a further 30 per cent reduction from the average flow in coming years.

The state has already issued an interim order for a temporary 90 per cent reduction in the flow for two years, while authorities decide whether to issue longer-term restrictions. There are concerns over potential environmental impacts as the flow of the river falls.

But the state’s acting director of water resources, Phil Sern

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