"It’s an arcane system of water law that dates back to the birth of California — an era when 49ers used sluice boxes and water cannons to scour gold from Sierra Nevada foothills and when the state government promoted the extermination of Native people to make way for white settlers.
Today, this antiquated system of water rights still governs the use of the state’s supplies, but it is now drawing scrutiny like never before.
In the face of global warming and worsening cycles of drought, a growing number of water experts, lawmakers, environmental groups and tribes say the time has finally come for change. Some are pushing for a variety of reforms, while others are calling for the outright dismantling of California’s contentious water rights system.
Calls for reform were heightened recently when the environmental group Restore the Delta released an analysis that concluded that the people who make decisions about California’s water are overwhelmingly white and male."