California Water Rights: You can't manage what you don't measure

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Notice how most of the Eel River is labeled as between 1 and 10% allocated. Are we really using only as much as 10% of the natural flow in the Eel, or are we not properly measuring what is used? This graphic makes it appear that we have plenty of water to go around, is that the message we want to send to the rest of our drought-stricken state?

California water experts have long known the amount of surface water granted by water rights far exceeds the state’s average supplies. Historically, the over-allocation has not raised much concern; in most years, there has been enough runoff of rain and snowmelt to go around.

But circumstances are changing. California is suffering the third driest year in a century and demands for water are at an all-time high. The huge gap between allocations and natural flows — coupled with great uncertainty over water-rights holders’ actual usage — is increasingly creating conflicts between water users and confusion for water managers trying to figure out whose supplies should be curtailed during a drought. …

 

Article by: Ted Grantham and Joshua Viers

Published: August 20, 2014

Published by: California WaterBlog

Read full article here

For more information, read Grantham and Viers’s article in Environmental Research Letter, 100 Years of California’s water rights system: patterns, trends and uncertainty. Click here to access.