The Republican-backed legislation would allow Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to continue to send water to the Central Valley as long as water is available.
Those pumps are sending minimal water to the valley now because of low reservoir levels and river flows, not environmental regulations that protect endangered fish.
The bill would also stop the restoration of the San Joaquin River until 2015.
Shawn Coburn of Firebaugh farms in three counties in the valley and uses water from two federal systems.
“It’s like closing the gate after the cow has gotten out, it’s a little bit late now, but anything is better than nothing,” says Coburn.
Environmentalists and several Democratic House members called the legislation a “water grab” and an attempt to throw out the Endangered Species Act.
“Sucking the Delta dry is not the answer to California’s water issues," said Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui in a statement. "We need long-term solutions that will benefit the entire state, and should be working together to solve California’s water problems through a balanced approach. This proposal is anything but balanced and will only create further discord.”
The legislation is backed by Congressmen Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao.
The drought intensified over the last week in the Western U.S. as the region swelters under a heatwave and firefighters battle major wildfires.
Dangerous fire weather conditions has prompted one federal agency to impose fire restrictions on public lands in northern California.
Mandatory statewide water conservation rules have ended in California. But Sacramento-area users conserved 22 percent in June, compared to June 2013.
California and federal agencies say a new strategy is needed to save the endangered Delta smelt.
California is in the fifth consecutive year of drought, but state water managers ended mandatory conservation rules. Local water suppliers now determine conservation rates, and some have low or no targets. A water expert says that's 'shortsighted.'