We support all of the recommendations in this report. These proposed reforms are long-overdue.
Experts Urge Overhaul of California’s ‘Antiquated’ Water Laws
Successful Farming, 2/4/22
As California enters its third year of drought, pressure is mounting for lawmakers to update the state’s antiquated water laws. On Thursday, a coalition of legal experts and retired state officials released a report with a list of suggested reforms, which they say would make California’s water politics more equitable and sustainable as climate change gets worse.”
…the report suggests that California overhaul a series of Byzantine water laws that weren’t designed to grapple with climate change. For instance, California’s Water Board currently uses historical data on different river systems to decide how much water it should distribute to users who are not senior water rights holders. But as climate change gets worse and water volume in the rivers becomes less predictable, those data are becoming irrelevant. “One of the things we know is absolutely true is that [this] is no longer defensible given climate change,” said report coauthor Clifford Lee, a former state deputy attorney general. “There simply will be less water in the future.”
Lee also urged policymakers to untangle California’s water rights system, which involves a patchwork of different classifications that he says has caused “considerable confusion.” And in a move that could affect California’s farmers, the report also suggests the state amend its water code to determine whether the claims of some senior water rights holders are legitimate. “I would like to say this recommendation brings California into the 21st century,” he said. “But it really just brings California into the 20th century.”
Here is the full report from the Planning and Conservation League