Property owners and officials find ways around century-old laws as the West runs out of water
With a megadrought draining water reserves in the West, states are looking for alternatives to handle water rights, many of which were set more than 100 years ago when water supplies were far more abundant.
Back then, just posting a sign next to a water diversion was enough to be considered a right, one which could still be honored now. But the climate crisis is now straining those rights. There just isn't enough water in California to satisfy what's been allotted on paper.
For years, debate has raged in California about the best way to fix the water rights system for life in the modern era. Many of the senior water rights held in the state were set before 1914 when the permit system was established and when mining was big business.