The water right that has been given out by California is five times more than what it actually has in its ecosystems.
The analysis which was published Tuesday shows that the amount of water rights that has been given out since 1914 amounts to 370 million acre feet of water yet the amount of surface water which flows through the state per year add up to 70 million acre feet for precipitation.
300 million acre feet are just an enough amount of water to fill up Lake Tahoe two and half times. The study arrived at these water supply figures by looking at public data from the State Water Control Board, a state agency which is mandated to administer water rights.
The Los Angeles times also reports that 16 of the 20 major rivers in the state of California face rights allocation which exceeds the natural supply.
According to Joshua Viers, this scenario can be compared to being given a ticket to a concert which is already filled to capacity and you will never get actually get into the show to know it’s already full. Joshua is a professor and one of the people who took part in the research.
According to the researchers, the system is incoherent and complicated and it’s hard to know who has the rights to what, when they will be making use of these rights and how much water they should be taking.
In some instances, residents may take water and hand in an application for rights to use the same water which they have already taken and their application may remain pending for a decade.
But in addition to these, most farming districts in California lay claims to water rights which were issued prior to 1914 and which aren’t captured in the Data maintained by the State Water Resources control Board. In most cases, the government may not even be aware as to the kind of rights which water user has.
“When distribution is not supervised, appropriative water rights doesn’t have any meaning. We don’t have a coherent system which we allocate water,” Michael Hanemann, a professor of resource economics and environment at the University of California-Berkeley.
The researchers recommended a complete overhaul of policies and procedures by the Water Resources Control Board and come up with a better system that allows the state agency to target and also regulate cutbacks especially during tough times such a s drought.
“In all these allocations, its hard to tell who should cut down on water use, therefore causing delays in issuing curtailment,” said Viers.
Unfortunately, the agency doesn’t have the finances as well as the legislative authority to make these changes.
As of now, the amount of water that is consumed in California is way above what its surface and ground water sources can replenish.
“It’s hard to manage what we cannot measure,”Viers said.” We have been coming up with a system that develops better information for informed decision making processes.”