To assess the board’s numbers over the last century, Grantham and Viers obtained 31,890 surface water rights records from the SWRCB’S public online archives. They discovered that the average amount of water promised to various entities declined over the twentieth century, but the number of those entities filing water requests has steadily increased. The water board continued to promise water rights to the growing populations without squaring it with the surface water that was actually available.
California has approved water rights agreements for a whopping five times as much water as it actually has, according to a study published Tuesday in Environmental Research Letters.
In fact, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), which manages the allocation of water rights to various agencies and districts, has been over-promising water rights for the last 100 years. In some case, there is a tenfold differencebetween the amount of water allocated and the genuine water flow in the state.
Needless to say, this may lead to serious problems if the state’s record-breaking droughts continue—or worse, intensify with climate change. That’s why the study’s two authors, Joshua Viers and Theodore Grantham, recommend a drastic overhaul of the water rights system, with improved accuracy and accountability.“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, a US Geological Survey scientist, in a UC Davis statement.
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