California’s Complicated Water Rights System Explained at Feb. 7 Water 101 Workshop
Hop on the bus for the optional one-day groundwater tour the next day

McGeorge Law School professor Jennifer Harder will lead a Water 101 session on California  water law on Feb. 7. Who owns California’s water? 

The State Water Resources Control Board’s recently approved plan to increase flows through the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to help improve conditions for fish in the Bay-Delta estuary sparked passionate arguments over who holds the rights to California’s waters — and whose rights are senior to others. 

So what’s the difference between a senior water right and a junior water right? Or a riparian right and an appropriative right? How are they determined? And how does the concept of public trust come into play?


Explore Ecological Challenges Facing the Salton Sea on Our Lower Colorado River Tour Feb. 27-March 1
Get an ‘early bird’ ticket to see this important stop on the Pacific Flyway and hear experts on efforts to aid state’s largest inland water body

Salton SeaThe Salton Sea, California’s largest inland body of water and an important stop on the Pacific Flyway, is struggling ecologically and shrinking as water is transferred from surrounding desert farms to urban San Diego County.

On our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, we will visit this fragile ecosystem that harbors 400 bird species and hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea, including managers of the Imperial Irrigation District, the Salton Sea Authority and California’s appointed “Sea Czar,” assistant secretary on Salton Sea policy Bruce Wilcox.

Water News You Need to Know

Aquafornia news High Country News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California contemplates water for struggling fish

In an unprecedented move, the Water Resources Control board voted in December to require water users to leave more water in the lower San Joaquin River to improve water quality and help fish. “This decision represents the water board taking its job to protect the public trust and our fisheries more seriously,” said Regina Chichizola, salmon and water policy analyst for the Institute for Fisheries Resources.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Gila River tribe threatens to pull out of Arizona drought plan

The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Storms add 580 billion gallons of water to California reservoirs

Storms that soaked California during the first half of January did more than bring tons of snow to Sierra Nevada ski resorts. They also helped to significantly boost the state’s water supplies. Over the three weeks from Jan. 1 until this Tuesday, 47 key reservoirs that state water officials closely monitor added 580 billion gallons of water — as much as roughly 9 million people use in a year, according to an analysis by this newspaper.

Aquafornia news ABC7

Measure W will fund projects to recycle rainwater from LA River

With four straight days of rain, the Los Angeles River has come alive. Thanks to Measure W, which was passed by voters last November, projects will be funded and infrastructure will be built to capture, treat and recycle all this rain water. Measure W is predicted to raise $300 million per year for L.A. County off a new property tax for what is called impermeable areas. That would be the driveway of your house, concrete patio or anything that stops water from going into the ground.

Online Water Encyclopedia

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Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems in the world. They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of water, reduce flooding and erosion, recharge groundwater and provide a diverse range of recreational opportunities from fishing and hunting to photography. They also serve as critical habitat for wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on California’s endangered species list.

Salton Sea
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Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 232 feet below sea level.

The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe

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Drought— an extended period of limited or no precipitation— is a fact of life in California and the West, with water resources following boom and-bust patterns.

No portion of the West has been immune to drought during the last century and drought occurs with much greater frequency in the West than in any other regions of the country.


Important People in California Water History

Read about the history people who played a significant role in the water history of California.