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Editorial: California lacks enforceable water rights system

Bills would give the state greater authority to manage and address waste and illegal water use

Source: East Bay Times

California’s inability to prevent illegal and wasteful use of its water supply is more annoying than a leaky faucet. And far more costly.

When water is illegally diverted, it severely reduces the amount available to urban and agricultural users throughout the state. But the state Water Resources Control Board lacks the tools needed to enforce water rights and protect the limited supply.

The process for stopping illegal diversions can take weeks. And when the state does finally step in, the fines it levies are insufficient to act as a deterrent. It’s the equivalent of a police officer catching someone speeding and sending a letter to the speeder saying, if you don’t slow down in the next 20 days, we’ll hit you with a fine for the cost of a gallon of gas.

Two bills introduced into the Legislature would help solve the problem. Assembly Bill 460, introduced by Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, and Assembly Bill 1337, introduced by Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, would empower the state Water Resources Control Board to act more promptly to stop illegal water practices.