SAN FRANCISCO — The state has levied a $1.5 million penalty against Byron Bethany Irrigation District for illegal water use, according to sfgate.com.

The fine marks the first imposed on a longtime water-rights holder during the current drought, noted the article. The State Water Resources Control Board accused the district of pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for almost two weeks after being told to stop by state officials.

The district is one of a few hundred water-rights holders that existed before 1914, reported the article. These landowners are rarely restricted when it comes to water use, but the current severe drought conditions led the state to impose restrictions on them.

Some of these districts have filed suit against the state, claiming California has no authority to impose the limitations, stated the article. The state believes that since more junior rights holders were restricted first, the cuts are legal.

The article shared that Russell Kagehiro, president of the district, said in a statement, “The state board is choosing to make an arbitrary example … at the expense of our customers and the communities their hard work supports.”

Mountain House, a planned residential community served by the district, was at risk of losing its water source before the district agreed to continue serving the area, noted the article. Terms included the community accepting financial responsibility of any potential penalties. The community now has a deal to buy water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

You can find the entire article here.