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On average, California allocates more than five times the amount of water to users than is available in its rivers and streams. (Josh Viers/UC Merced photo)
California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has, making it hard for regulators to tell whose supplies should be cut during a drought, University of California researchers reported.
The scientists said California’s water-rights regulator, the State Water Resources Control Board, needs a systematic overhaul of policies and procedures to bridge the gaping disparity, but lacks the legislative authority and funding to do so.
Ted Grantham, who explored the state’s water-rights database as a postdoctoral researcher with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, said the time is ripe for tightening the water-use accounting.
“Given the public’s current attention on drought and California water, we now have an unprecedented opportunity for strengthening the water-rights system,” said Grantham, who conducted the analysis with UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers.