AP: Historic Water Claims Mean Special Status, Despite Drought

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Alan Hayashi watches as workers load boxes of cabbages onto the truck for shipping at his farm on in Arroyo Grande, Calif., May 8, 2014. Hayashi said he was surprised to learn that state records showed the farm had used 875,000 acre-feet of water in 2010 to irrigate its vegetable farm, more than 10 times what San Francisco consumes in a year. “That’s a huge crazy number,” Hayashi said. In reality, he said, they only used about 550 acre-feet. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

A new Associated Press investigation finds that in drought-ridden California, thousands of companies, farms and municipalities are able to use free water — with very little oversight.

These entities have a special status, dating back to historic water claims made after the Gold Rush, and before the government regulated water usage more closely.

The antiquated system accounts for a large portion of the water used in California, and may make it harder for the state to move water where it is most needed.

Garance Burke co-authored the AP stories and discusses the issue with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.


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