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State Water Board Agrees To Water Diversion Deal With Delta Farmers

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

In this photo taken Monday, May 18, 2015, Gino Celli inspects wheat nearing harvest on his farm near Stockton, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

UPDATED 2:49 p.m. - California water regulators are praising some Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmers for coming up with a program to voluntarily cut water use. 

The State Water Resources Control Board approved a deal Friday in which farmers with some of the oldest rights to divert water from rivers would reduce use by 25 percent or fallow 25 percent of their land. The board says those farmers who participate would no longer risk future water curtailments.

"Speaking personally, I appreciate the practical approach that some senior water rights holders have offered that offer us some real water versus words, and while there are arguments and legal decisions in all of our futures, it is significant that these folks are offering water to step up in the drought," says Felicia Marcus, who is chair of the water board.

Farmers who want to volunteer to cut use must submit a plan to the State Water Resources Control Board by June 1.

The Delta accounts for less than 10 percent of irrigated farmland in California.

-Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Original Post, 7 a.m. (AP) - California water regulators are expected Friday to let farmers know whether they'll accept their plan to cut back on water usage in the drought-ravaged state.

Farmers along the delta of the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers are offering to cut back water usage by a quarter this year in exchange for being spared deeper mandatory cutbacks.

California regulators have been warning of curtailments for senior water-rights holders whose claims date back a century or more.