California legislature passes bill on pre-1914 water claims

Surface water diversions subject to pre-1914 appropriation claims
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October 2, 2023 — Last month, California’s legislature passed Senate Bill 389 that could impact holders of pre-1914 rights. It’s now up to Governor Gavin Newsom to make the final decision.

After its passage in mid-September, the bill was enrolled and presented to the Governor on September 20.

The legislation authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board to check if these old water claims are valid. To date, it has not been clear if regulators could look into the water use of some of the largest water users having pre-1914 water claims.  According to the Los Angeles TimesOpens in a new tab., pre-1914 right holders take about one-third of the water from California’s rivers and streams. They include cities, landowners, and farming districts.

According to the new law, state water officials can look into old water rights, ask for information, and stop any water use that isn’t allowed after holding a hearing.  If the Board determines that a water user is taking more water than allowed, the State Water Board has the power to stop the water diversion.

The text and status of the bill can be followed hereOpens in a new tab..


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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