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From 19th century battles between farmers and hydraulic gold miners over debris polluting rivers to 21st-century political duels over spawning salmon, Californians have squabbled incessantly over how water should be captured, allocated, conveyed and priced.
The South Fork of the American River looked like the high seas or a stormy lake in late May, with four times the normal amount of water coursing through Chili Bar, known for challenging rapids even in dry years.
During a typical year, aquifers provide around 40 percent of the water the state uses; in drought years, that percentage soars to 60 percent or more. The state’s aquifers can hold a lot of water, but that number isn’t infinite, and California’s current rate of overdraft isn’t sustainable.
Growers’ groups voiced strong opposition, questioning the water board’s power to stop senior rights holders from pumping the water.