California water law is a complex subject. It is governed by both state and federal law, and is part property law and part environmental law. This topic has important historical roots, based in common law concepts of private rights to water, but is now dominated by federal legislation aimed at achieving environmental purposes. Adding to this complexity is the existence of a large number of federal, state and local agencies which play a role in the allocation and management of the state’s water resources.
This research guide explains the basic concepts a researcher needs in order to begin understanding the current legal regime that controls the water of California. The guide covers a wide variety of resources, both print and online, some of which are freely available but others only through paid subscriptions. The greater emphasis is on California statutes, cases and regulations, but the secondary sources discussed will provide the necessary explanation of how federal law applies.