To: Michael Patrick George, Delta Watermaster
From: Micah Green, Water Rights Analyst
Re: Issues Related to Overlap between Pre-1914 and Riparian Water Right Claims in the Delta
Date: December 15, 2017
Pursuant to your request, I have researched an issue raised in the course of my review of responses to the Division of Water Rights’ 2015 Information Order submitted by water right claimants within the Legal Delta.
I. Question Presented
Under California water law and within the Legal Delta, are there any circumstances under which riparian and appropriative rights can “overlap” becoming indistinguishable or inseparable such that either or both may be lawfully exercised at the election of the holder?
II. Short Answer
It is possible to perfect both riparian and appropriative water rights for beneficial use on the same parcel. However, riparian and appropriative rights are distinct property interests that must be separately established. There is no California precedent recognizing “overlapping” or “intertwined” water rights, and water laws against hoarding and non-use operate to preclude the duplicative exercise of water rights.