Illegal diversions: Much ado about nothing

On February 7, the Delta Watermaster reported to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) on investigations of water rights in the Delta. Of over 1,000 Delta properties investigated since 2008 for illegal diversions and failure to file reports, formal enforcement action has been taken in only 12 cases.

Twelve. Out of over 1,000 properties.

The Watermaster’s report notes that there are approximately 3,000 diversions taking place in the Delta, but a much smaller number of special district and water companies – about 50 – that either divert water directly or work with individual diverters in their service area. Special districts can legally deliver water in excess of their licensed amounts to owners under the owners’ riparian and pre-1914 rights. The Watermaster’s staff has been able to get information about claims more quickly by working with water districts rather than with individual diverters.

Says the report, “Given the level of effort expended for the relatively small number of cases that resulted in enforcement action, it may be more appropriate to focus some of the future compliance and enforcement activities on special districts in the Delta who divert water under their water rights and/or furnish water to individuals under the latter’s rights.”

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