ICYMI  5/27/22: The Historic Inequities of California Water Rights

Delta water crisis linked to California’s racist past, tribes and activists say – Los Angeles Times, 5/26/22
The tribes and environmental groups submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board demanding the state change its approach and adopt science-based standards that ensure adequate flows in the Delta to improve water quality and sustain imperiled fish, including species that are at risk of extinction.

They said the ecological crisis in the Delta has its roots in California’s history of violence against Native people, the taking of land from tribes and structural racism that shaped how the water rights system was established more than a century ago. They said deteriorating conditions in the estuary represent a “continuation of California’s discriminatory water management history.”
They wrote in their 169-page petition that the state water board’s “failure to adopt sufficiently protective water quality standards entrenches a discriminatory system of water rights that was founded on the dispossession of Indigenous Californians and exclusion of communities of color, and that continues to prioritize large-scale agricultural interests over those of vulnerable Californians living in the Delta.”

Tribes, environmental groups demand better management of the Bay-Delta – CapRadio 5/24/22
Barrigan-Parilla adds that the document details how the history of California water rights and management has harmed tribes and communities of color. 

“[It’s] actually rooted in a great deal of historical racism,” Barrigan-Parilla said. “From taking of lands from California tribes, taking away their right to have river access, and how communities of color within the Delta itself were redlined out of land ownership and ability to access water.”

The board has 30 days to respond to the petition. 

‘Its condition impedes our cultural practices’: Tribal communities ask California to protect the Delta– Fox 40 (Sacramento)
“The board must review the Bay-Delta plan every three years, and it must update the water quality standards in it to protect public trust resources,” Sydney Speizman, with Stanford Environmental Law Clinic said.

On Tuesday afternoon, a petition was filed claiming the state water board is in violation of federal law by not updating the Bay-Delta plan.

“We’re petitioning the board to open a rulemaking that will fulfill its legal duties to responsibly manage the Delta and reverse the pattern of putting big (agriculture) and other water exporters before the needs of tribes, Delta communities, and the health of this eco-system,” Speizman said.

In an era of drought, an obscure water contract is pitting California farmers against each other  – Grist 5/26/22
“We have a water rights system that is based on this principle of ‘first in time, first in right,’ where landowners were able to go out and post a sign on a tree and start diverting water. And just by the act of taking the water, it became theirs,” said Doug Obegi, director of California river restoration projects at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But that was only made available by the fact that the settlers had wiped the Native people off of the land. We have now a system that, a hundred-plus years later, is still maintaining that privilege, and leading to this inequity where you have some water districts getting very little water and others getting a lot.”

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