Water Rights Terms
Adjudicate -To determine rights by a lawsuit in court.
Appropriative Right – A right based on physical control of water and since 1914 in relation to surface water, a state-issued permit or license for its beneficial use. Appropriative water rights in California are divided into pre-1914 and post-1914 rights, depending on whether they were initiated after the December 19, 1914 effective date of the Water Commission Act of 1913. Post-1914 rights can only be initiated by filing an application and obtaining a permit from the state. The program is now administered by the State Water Resources Control Board.
Common Law – A body of court decisions based on custom, traditional usage and precedent, as that of England, rather than codified written laws.
Doctrine – A particular principle that is presented for acceptance or belief, such as the public trust doctrine.
Dormant – Unexercised, not active, but capable of becoming exercised, as a dormant riparian right to use water.
Enjoin – To prohibit or forbid, especially by court order.
Entitlement – The right to receive, demand or do something.
Implied Right – A right that exists without ever being specifically expressed; an understood right.
License – An official document giving permission to engage in a specified activity, such as an appropriation of water.
Miner’s Inch (statute) – A measurement of water equivalent to 1.5 cubic feet of water per minute measured through an aperture, making it equivalent to one-fortieth of a second-foot.
Permit – An official document allowing the performance of a specified activity under set limitations. If all requirements are met, a water appropriation permit can mature into a license.
Prescriptive Rights – Prescriptive Rights are water use rights gained by trespass or unauthorized use that ripen into a title — on a par with rights to land gained through adverse possession. To perfect the right, the use of water must be adverse, hostile, open and continuous for five consecutive years against a private water rights holder.
Pueblo Right – A Pueblo Right is a water right possessed by a municipality which, as a successor of a Spanish-law pueblo, is entitled to the beneficial use of all needed, naturally occurring surface and groundwater of the original pueblo watershed.
Reasonable and Beneficial Use – A state constitutional requirement that all water resources must be put to beneficial use, preventing waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use.
Right – A claim or title to anything that is enforceable by law, such as a right to use water. Water rights include those for storage, direct diversion, instream (environmental) and hydropower. Holders of riparian water rights, landowners adjacent to a stream and the most senior, have a co-equal right to take water, and disputes about entitlements sometimes involve adjoining landowners as well as those up or downstream.
Riparian- Pertaining to the bank of a river, or any area where water naturally touches land. Riparian Rights pertain to a landowner whose property borders a river has a right to use water from that river on his land.
Safe Yield – Safe yield is the rate of extraction that does not deplete groundwater in a basin over time.
Statutory Law – A body of law based on statutes enacted by a legislature.
Title – The right of property, also the legal evidence of one’s right of property.
Trespass – Any voluntary transgression of law or rule, as to enter wrongfully upon another’s land or to infringe upon another’s rights to use water.
Usufructuary Right – A right to use rather than own the property of another, such as the state’s water.
Vested – Established by law as a permanent right.