State isn’t sure who’s on board with new water rules

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deltaCalifornians continue to show a lack of urgency when it comes to new water restrictions.

Individually, we’ve repeatedly fallen short of the 25 percent reductions sought by Gov. Brown and state water officials.

And now, there’s word that more than two-thirds of the most senior water rights holders in the state haven’t even reported if they are complying with new restrictions on diverting water from river and streams.

In recent weeks, the state has sent curtailment orders to more than 9,000 water rights holders – many of them in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The list includes individual farmers, irrigation districts, utlities and some urban water agencies. But fewer than 3,000 of those rights holders have reported back to the State Water Resources Control Board to say they are complying with the order.

That’s making it nearly impossible to know how much water is being saved, and how much is being siphoned off. It’s also setting up those farmers and water districts for possible fines. Under new powers granted by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers, water officials can impose fines of up to $1,000 a day for illegally diverting water.

It’s not clear if the low response rate means that people are ignoring the orders or merely failing to do their paperwork. State water officials say they are looking into it – with those who failed to report first in line for inspections.

Meanwhile, some water districts and others aren’t giving up their historic water rights without a fight. They’ve sued the state over the curtailment orders. The first hearings in the case are scheduled to for later this week.