By: Linda Sheehan Published: 6-3-2015
Oakland Tribune

State should recognize rights of waterways

The recent front-page article on water rights covered the growing demand for even "senior" water rights holders to help solve the ongoing drought. Who's not invited to the discussion? Waterways, like the Delta and our rivers and streams.

California law allocates water rights to human users who happened to begin diverting around 150 years ago. Waterways, which have been around a lot longer, have no rights in law to the water they need to even exist. As a result, even in nondrought years we are draining waterways, like the once-mighty Scott River, bone dry during critical times of the year for fish.

We must come to grips with the fact that we live in a semiarid state. One way to do that is to ensure that California law recognizes waterways' inherent rights to the water they need to survive and to support fish, wildlife -- and us. By incorporating waterways' rights to flow in law, we will use water more wisely and better safeguard our future as a state.

Linda Sheehan

Executive director Earth Law Center Fremont