California irrigation districts challenge state orders to stop pumping river water in drought

IndustriesAssociated Press

Several California irrigation districts are suing the state, saying officials overstepped their authority by ordering farmers to stop pumping from some rivers during drought.

The challenges filed Friday came from three districts providing water to farmers in the San Joaquin River watershed.

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Last week, the state water board sent the orders to more than 100 water users in California who hold some of the strongest water rights.

Steve Knell of the Oakdale Irrigation District says the water belongs to farmers and the district is defending its constitutional rights.

Peter Rietkerk of the Patterson Irrigation District says the walnut and almond orchards of growers could wither and die, costing them half-a-billion dollars.

George Kostyrko, a spokesman for the state Water Resources Control Board, declined to comment, saying the agency will respond in court.