Do you have a water right? Then that is the one you care about. General information is interesting, but not too useful or relevant. When it comes down to it, your water right is the one you have to understand eight ways from
Sunday, and your water right is the one you have to defend.
But look at rights from another angle. What rights do we as citizens of the United States all have, that we all really need to know? Every U.S. citizen wants to be able to say what he wants, go to church or not, and attend political and protest meetings. Where does it say that the federal government cannot prohibit or compel certain speech, church participation, and attend political meetings?
Of course you know that these rights are protected by the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Most of us learned this before we got
to high school. 482 short words protect your and my freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition; right to keep and bear arms; right not to be forced to quarter soldiers; freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, freedom from being tried twice for the same allegation; rights of accused persons, (speedy and public trial); right of trial by jury in civil cases; freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments; other rights of the people; powers reserved to the states.
Imagine having your house searched and not knowing what rights protect you. How could you demand that soldiers do not forcibly enter your home, without
any knowledge of the 3rd Amendment? Or, imagine being arrested during a traffic stop because you refused to let police search your vehicle. What if you didn’t know anything about the 4th Amendment, which protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures? How quickly life, liberty, and property can be lost when the accused does not know his or her constitutional rights!
How does this relate to water rights? Who knows, you or one of your family might buy land with a different kind of water right. If you have a summary understanding of water rights, you’ll be in a lot better place to know what the right is worth, how much water you might really get, and when. What if an attorney or a government agency tells you that your property lost its water right – how could you even know you have an argument without some basic understanding? Even when landowners get legal help, it can be pretty expensive…where knowing in advance could save hassle, time, and money.
One of my earlier posts has a bullet list that can be memorized, or printed on a card for a wallet or purse:
- Riparian – a parcel that touches a stream, spring or lake may use a ” reasonable and beneficial” amount, quantity and rate undefined, per the California Constitution.
- Rancho rights granted by the government of Spain or Mexico, prior to Statehood in 1850.
- Pueblo rights, the one belonging to Los Angeles being famous.
- Appropriative in 1913 and prior, aka “pre-1914”, for parcels not touching a body of water, which started with gold mining and is now mostly for agriculture.
- Post-1914 appropriative rights issued by the State Water Resources Control Board.
- Adjudicated, or decreed, from Federal District or State Superior Court.
- Groundwater from a well, similar to surface water riparian but for the overlying land.
- Prescriptive, which isn’t a definite right until decreed by a court.
- Contracts, which are not rights but rely on some already-existing right(s).
Please leave a comment, correction, complaint, humor, or other message below:
For comparison purposes, here is the United States Bill Of Rights, conveniently available on the home page of the Bill Of Rights Institute:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.