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California Water Regulators Up Enforcement Powers

Effects of drought in Imperial County, Calif.
Adrian Florido
Effects of drought in Imperial County, Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California water regulators have voted to give themselves tough new drought enforcement powers after learning that most water-rights holders haven't responded to orders to use less.

The State Water Resources Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the emergency regulations for nine months.

The rules speed the process the board uses to force some rights holders to stop diverting from rivers and streams. The previous regulations called for quasi-judicial hearings that could be drawn out for months before action was taken.


Rights-holders can still request a hearing, but the state doesn't have to wait before enforcing orders.

The Sacramento Bee reports the move comes after the board learned just 31 percent of the state's nearly 10,000 water-rights holders responded to curtailment notices in the past six weeks.