California’s Sixth Appellate District Court of Appeal has issued a ruling protecting longstanding water rights of California farmers, ranchers and water agencies.
The court ruled that the California State Water Resources Control Board cannot target senior water rights holders for across-the-board curtailments in water deliveries. The ruling declares that the state board does not have the power “to curtail an entire class of pre-1914 appropriative water rights solely on the basis that the Board believes that there will be insufficient water to serve all pre-1914 appropriative water rights.”
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson called the court ruling an important affirmation of water rights, which should serve as wake-up call for state policymakers.
“The Farm Bureau is pleased that the court has recognized senior water rights, which are critical to California communities, agriculture and securing our nation’s food supply,” Johansson said.
“As food prices continue to skyrocket, this is a wake-up call for those in charge of California’s water system to reject their current policy of scarcity. We need to build water storage and invest in improved water conveyance, as a vast majority of California voters called for in approving the Proposition 1 water bond in 2014. This is a reminder that the state needs to act on those voter wishes.”
California Farm Bureau Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said, “The decision is a win for the water rights system and certainty in its administration, even though in some ways it’s just a statement of what has always been the case—the state water board has direct regulatory authority over only those water rights developed after the enactment of the Water Commission Act of 1913.
“As a practical matter,” Scheuring said, “it’s a recognition that the state can’t regulate itself out of a water supply and demand crisis by targeting senior water rights, and a signal that we must renew our focus on new supply and infrastructure.”
The California Farm Bureau works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.