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.