A list of articles suggesting methods for water rights reform and the suggested reform. I’ll try to keep it updated (starting in September). If you see (or write) others, I would much appreciate a link in the comments.
Wilson, Reasonable Use Doctrine:
Given the severity of the drought, the doctrine can and should be used more expansively. Instead of using the water-rights priority system to make decisions on whose water use should be curtailed, the reasonable use doctrine can be invoked to make more equitable decisions.
Senior water holders and groundwater over-drafters can have their water use restricted during times of drought. The inefficient use of water should be considered unreasonable.
For example, flood irrigating a field during drought can be considered unreasonable. Likewise, so could taking twice as much water out of a groundwater aquifer as is naturally replenished with no plans to make up the difference.
Etelson, Public Trust Doctrine
First, the doctrine should be applied to groundwater. During drought years, groundwater supplies 60 percent or more of our water. Corporate farms are pumping aquifers so fast that the ground in the Central Valley is literally sinking, leaving a growing number of well-dependent communities without running water.
Second, the doctrine should incorporate the Precautionary Principle. In Hawaii, water regulators err on the side of protecting water when there is lack of scientific certainty regarding the damage that could be caused by the use in question.
Lastly, the Public Trust Doctrine renders invalid the promise to Delta farmers to refrain from restricting their usage later this year if they agree now to a 25 percent cut. Public Trust principles require that the state guarantee a sufficient flow of water for healthy rivers and streams and then divide up whatever’s left for farming and other uses.
Of course I wish for more complete and detailed proposals. But I feel like I am coaxing timid creatures out of the woods. Maybe if we show them that nothing bad happens for proposing water rights reform, we’ll get more thorough suggestions.
ADDED (I’ll clean this up when I have more time and access):
State needs an efficient water allocation system.