Wednesday June 8, 2022

The Press Democrat

The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday approved a groundbreaking agreement that allows “senior” water rights holders in the upper Russian River watershed to share their supply with junior rights holders whose claims might otherwise be suspended due to drought.

The collaborative, community-first approach, negotiated over many months by agricultural, municipal, tribal and other stakeholders in the region, is the first of its kind to try to bring balance to the allocation of scarce water supplies in a state governed by what one board member called an “inherently inequitable” water rights system.

Instead of relying on the century-plus-old “first in time, first in right” system, through which younger water rights can be fully curtailed while senior rights are left completely whole, the voluntary framework approved Tuesday allows neighbors to support each other through hard times, supporters say.

Any senior water rights holder who participates will be agreeing to forgo some of their water so that junior water rights holders can at least have a minimal amount to sustain their agricultural interests or other needs.

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