Water Rights

A series of bills seeking to fundamentally change the way California’s water rights system is implemented and enforced have been introduced in the first year of the 2023-’24 legislative session. ACWA’s State Legislative Committee has taken an oppose position on AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan), AB 1337 (Wicks) and SB 389 (Allen). These bills are an attack on the current water rights system and present substantial concerns for public water agencies. ACWA staff is making it a top priority to stop these bills, which would upend California’s water rights system.

More information and resources are available below.

Join the Coalition

ACWA is strongly urging every member agency to join the coalition in opposition of these three bills. Let ACWA know that you want your agency to be listed on separate coalition letters by submitting your agency’s logo and signature block (name, title, agency) to ACWA State Relations Analyst Richard Filgas and outreach@acwa.com.

Bill Updates

May 18 SB 389: Senate Appropriations Committee approved and it is headed to the Senate Floor
May 18 AB 1337: Assembly Appropriations Committee approved and it is headed to the Assembly Floor
May 18 AB 460: Assembly Appropriations Committee approved and it is headed to the Assembly Floor
April 26 SB 389 passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee
April 26 AB 460 passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee
April 18 AB 1337 passed out of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee

Background

The following bills threaten to undermine the basic foundation of water management and water delivery in California.

AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) would grant the State Water Resources Control Board new and sweeping authority to issue interim relief orders against water diverters and users. Additionally, these orders could be issued without holding a hearing in which water right holders could defend their actions.

The bill would also authorize the State Water Board to enforce the orders by imposing onerous and costly requirements on water users. This could include curtailing diversions, imposing new minimum streamflow requirements, directing reservoir operations, requiring the diverter to conduct technical studies, and more.

AB 1337 (Wicks) would authorize the State Water Board to issue curtailment orders against all water right holders and during any water year type. This would have the potential to significantly impact the certainty and availability of water supplies.

SB 389 (Allen) would authorize the State Water Board to investigate and determine the scope and validity of any water right claim. In any proceeding to evaluate the basis of a water right, the water right holder would have the burden of proving the basis of the right. ACWA has serious concerns with authorizing the State Water Board to drag water right holders before the Board to prove their claims.

Questions

For questions about any of the water rights bills, please contact ACWA Legislative Advocate Kristopher Anderson at (916) 441-4545.

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