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California's water rights lawsuit takes off

California farmers fight for constitutional right to water

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Sunday, June 21, 2015, 4:43 PM - California farmers have been battling an intense drought for almost four years. Now, they're up against another challenge: the loss of water rights.

Water usage rights have emerged after the State Water Resources Control Board ordered the Banta-Carbona district to stop using water from the San Joaquin River immediately.

"Water rights here are viewed as property," says Jim McLeod, board president of the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District. "[They're] protected by the Constitution. The lawsuits set up a showdown that could shape the way all of California manages water the rest of this drought."

McLeod has been on the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District board for 53 years. He says the state is breaking the law by cutting off his district's senior water rights.

Mostly, concern remains with the district's farmers. "We're halfway through the season. It'll destroy those tomatoes out there; it'll destroy the walnuts on these trees," McLeod says.

The district of Banta-Carbona is the first to take legal action against the state water board, with the Patterson Irrigation District filing a lawsuit Friday, among many other districts.

Steve Knell, general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District, says "taking property without a due process hearing from a state agency" is "just wrong."

"They think despite having contributed nothing to this water resource, they can walk in and tell you to stop taking water," Knell adds.

According to a CNN report, California's water rights date back before 1914.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Tim J Keegan, Flickr.

SOURCE: CNN | State Water Board |

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