Where can I use my water right? Can I change the location, or make it bigger?
Water rights most often have a place of use. The place of use may be defined in a court decree or adjudication, and shown on an associated map. In most court decrees, the place of the use for a water right is “forever”, unless another case comes up to change that place.
For pre-1914 rights which are not part of a court decree, the place of use is defined…somewhere. Hopefully the water right holder has an old map, or evidence that the farm or ranch has the same boundaries today that it did when water started being used. The map might be in the attic, or someone may have sent a copy of the map to the State Water Resources Control Board.
Riparian rights belong to parcels touching a stream, natural lake, or spring. The requirement for us is that it be reasonable and beneficial. So the place of use might be a whole parcel of ownership, or part of it, but the place of use cannot be off that parcel. Riparian rights are defined by the California State Constitution, but the place of use is not defined except that it has to touch the water.
Post-1914 rights issued by the State Water Resources Control Board, and used under a permit or license, have the place of use defined. It might be by 1/4 1/4 Section, or 40-acre pieces. It might be by coordinates in a surveying system, such as the California Coordinate System. Sometimes there are maps with permits and licenses, sometimes not.
This is a quick summary of the concept of place of use. We’ll go into more detail later, with some examples. For now, good night to all.