User’s Guide to California Water Rights
June 18, 2015
Much editorial space has been devoted of late to stories about surface water – water from lakes, rivers and streams – and who has a right to use it, who is using too much of it, and who is being hardest hit by the current extreme scarcity of it. The regulatory plot continues to thicken: Last week, the State Water Board ordered senior water rights holders to stop diverting surface water for the first time since the 1970s, bringing the total number of water users subject to State Board curtailment to over 9,000. And as the dry summer rolls on, state regulators are promising more cutbacks in the months to come.
To those unfamiliar with California's arcane water rights system, it all may seem a little mysterious. Below is a roadmap of California's water rights law and a summary of how the drought has affected water users statewide.