State Budget Proposes to Buy Water Rights From Farmers

State lawmakers are proposing to set aside $2 billion to buy up water rights and repurpose farmland to rebalance the water supply amidst the state’s second drought in the last decade.

Most of the money being proposed in the 2022-23 budget, $1.5 billion, will be used to buy land with senior water rights to secure surface water from state and federal water projects as drinking water for disadvantaged communities struggling with contaminated groundwater and enhance stream and river conditions for habitats. Senior water rights are those that predate the state’s regulation of water use in 1914, which often supersede other rights to water supply during dry years.

Feds Defend Permanent Water Contracts to Benefit Agriculture

Defending the decision to give farm irrigation districts permanent access to low-cost, federally pumped water in California, a Justice Department lawyer urged a federal judge Thursday to flush a Native American tribe’s lawsuit against the endless entitlements. The Hoopa Valley Tribe sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in August, claiming the Trump administration’s conversion of 14 time-limited contracts for Central Valley Project water into permanent deals violated a host of federal laws.