Water districts were so close to deal. Now, lawsuits will contest ‘water grab’

Some water districts would like to keep negotiating with state officials over river flows.

But lawsuits replaced settlements as the most likely path forward, the day after a crucial vote in Sacramento approving the “water grab.”

The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts had no agreement for flows on the Stanislaus River before Wednesday’s meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board. By virtue of a 4-1 vote approving the latest update to the Bay-Delta water quality plan, the agency will require districts to leave 40 percent of runoff in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers for salmon.

As a result, farms and city customers will receive less water. And agencies will struggle to preserve water in reservoirs like New Melones and Don Pedro during multiyear droughts, district officials say.

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