Delta Farmers to Cut 25 Percent of Water Use

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY --

Delta farmers are voluntarily giving up a quarter of their water rights to avoid further, harsher cuts. But what the State Water Resources Control Board is hailing as an unprecedented move is being criticized as unfair.

We spoke with Dante Nomellini, who has been a part of this fight for years, representing farmers who have volunteered to give up 25 percent of their water diversions or fallow 25-percent of their land.

In the fight over water, Delta farmers have raised their white flag.

“I think that’s fine, but I think it’s been driven by an improper basis,” Dante Nomellini, Co-Counsel with the Central Delta Water Agency told us.

A group of farmers approached the State Water Resources Control Board with their plan earlier this week.

That move was approved Friday. Those with riparian rights, meaning their property gives them direct access to a river, will now leave a quarter of their crops empty or cut water use by 25-percent from June to September.

“The state should not have used their curtailment authority in this situation,” the attorney said.

Nomellini represents a portion of those farmers, and he’s been challenging the state for years. He claimed some farmers had no choice but to offer up their rights for fear of even harsher cuts.

“It’s something that doesn’t make good sense to go out and curtail their operation.”

State Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement that, “It allows participating growers to share in the sacrifice that people throughout the state are facing because of the severe drought.”

Nomellini argued the farmers shouldn’t have to give up their rights in the first place if the state had properly handled water diversions.

In this game of water with a fourth year of drought, it seems everyone has been dealt a losing hand.

“It’s a high stakes game and it’s been for a long time,” Nomellini said.

The state added Delta farmers who choose not to participate in this voluntary program may face harsher cuts later this year.

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