Rights to California’s most important resource are built on injustice. New legislation seeks to change that


Publish Date:
June 5, 2023
San Francisco Chronicle
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Assembly Bill 1337, one of the three pieces of advancing legislation, would reaffirm the state water board’s ability to curtail the most senior water rights holders. It was introduced by Assembly Member Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland.

“Legislative proposals like this that shore up the board’s authority and embolden the board to be more aggressive go some distance,” said Stephanie Safdi, clinical supervising attorney and lecturer at Stanford Law School.

Safdi was among those who supported the state in its legal fight with water users, filing an amicus brief last year on behalf of a handful of tribes and an environmental justice group. The filing described the water rights system as “discriminatory” and “racist” because of those who were — and weren’t — able to get historical water rights and for perpetuating these injustices today.

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