Delta Watermaster Issues New Report on Improving Water Right Enforcement

The State Water Resources Control Board’s authority to enforce and monitor water rights is relatively weak and laden with unnecessary process, the state’s Delta watermaster concludes in a new report.

Set for discussion at the State Board’s Sept. 19 meeting, the report identifies deficiencies in the State Board’s enforcement authority for water rights, especially as compared to its water quality authority, and discusses how the current process hinders the board’s ability to impose immediate penalties.

“Enhancing the State Water Board’s water rights authority will benefit the state’s ability to improve water supply planning and make sound water use decisions,” Watermaster Craig M. Wilson writes in the report. “Delayed or postponed compliance can foster situations where individuals make decisions, take action, or fail to take action that are adverse to the public interest in maximizing the reasonable and beneficial use of water and in protecting the environment. Efficient and timely water rights enforcement promotes a level playing field where all persons must play by the same rules and not conduct unfair business practices.”

The report recommends authorizing administrative civil liabilities for violations of the terms and conditions of a permit or license. It also includes recommendations for improving the monitoring and reporting authority of the State Water Board and amending the service process to increase the success of delivery.

The Delta watermaster is charged with submitting regular reports to the State Water Board on water rights administration, water quality issues, and conveyance operations.

The Delta Stewardship Council will hear a presentation on the report at its Sept. 27 meeting.

Read the complete report here.