California regulators on Friday accepted a historic offer by farmers to make a 25% voluntary water cut to avoid deeper mandatory losses during the drought.
Officials with the state Water Resources Control Board made the announcement involving farmers in the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers who hold some of California’s strongest water rights.
The several hundred farmers made the offer after state officials warned they were days away from ordering some of the first cuts in more than 30 years to the senior water rights holders.
California water law is built around preserving the water claims of those rights holders. The threat of state cuts is a sign of the worsening impacts of the four-year drought.
The state already has mandated 25% conservation by cities and towns and curtailed water deliveries to many farmers and communities.
The most arid winter on record for the Sierra Nevada snowpack means there will be little runoff this summer to feed California’s rivers, reservoirs and irrigation canals. As of Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor rated 94% of California in severe drought or worse.