Allen Martin reports for KPIX CBS San Francisco Bay Area (“Some Californians Allowed To Keep Using Water For Free Amid Record Drought“)
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX 5) — California’s blistering heat has spared wildfires and is worsening what could be a record drought. While some are bracing for severe water rationing, others with certain privileges can continue to use as much water as they want for free.
According to the New California Water Atlas, more than 50,000 Californians, municipalities, water districts and more hold different kinds of water rights. From the Gold Rush of 1849, to the huge state and federal water projects, the laws that govern them reflect more than 150 years of compromise, as well as conflict.
“As Mark Twain once said – water’s for fighting,” said Tom Hicks, an attorney who specializes in water law.
He said even in a drought, folks like Erickson get their water first.
“The riparian often trumps when times get tightest,” Hicks said.
But if these dry times get any tighter, some riparian rights holders may have to turn off the spigot as well.
On Thursday, for the first time in decades, federal officials will release water from the Friant dam east of Fresno. The water is needed satisfy the needs of some farmers who hold some of the oldest water rights in the state.