What are water rights and do I need them?

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

Water is one of the most important substances for living beings, so it is no surprise that there must be laws that govern water usage to allow for fairness. 

According to the California State Water Resources Control Board, water rights give you the ability to use water for a reasonable purpose in a reasonable amount. Specifically, it is for uses other than using the water for consumption. 

When you need them

You must request water rights if you wish to use water that is from a creek, unground resource, lake, pond or other public waterways. For example, if you need to use water for your livestock, then you need permission to do so. You will need to secure water rights no matter how much water you use. 

Why you need them

The reason you must secure water rights is that the state considers it a protected resource. The goal of regulating its use helps to ensure water remains clean, usable and available to all residents. Water rights affect everyone even if you never have to secure one yourself. Farms and ranches use water rights and need them to ensure livestock and crops have access to water. 

How to get them

You should never assume that you have water rights because water is on your property. You should always check with the Division of Water Rights before using it. 

The Division of Water Rights can assist you in figuring out your rights. It can also help you get the proper permit to secure your rights. The agency also can help to prevent disputes over water and ensure fair use. 

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