What kind of surface water rights are there? Here is the simple list:
- Riparian water right – a parcel that touches a stream, spring or lake may use a “reasonable and beneficial” amount, quantity and rate undefined, per the California Constitution, Article X, Section 2.
- Rancho water rights – granted by the government of Spain or Mexico, prior to Statehood in 1850.
- Pueblo water rights – granted by the government of Spain; most famously, the one belonging to Los Angeles.
- Appropriative water rights – these were claimed and developed in 1913 and prior, aka “Pre-1914“, for parcels not touching a body of water. These started with gold mining and are now mostly for agriculture.
- Appropriative Post-1914 – Since 1915, after an application is filed, a permit and then a license may be granted by the State Water Resources Control Board.
- Adjudicated – also called decreed, from lawsuits decided in Federal District or State Superior Court.
- Groundwater – pumped from a well, similar to surface water riparian but for the overlying land.
- Prescriptive – a right which may be gained by adverse possession of someone else’s unused right; these are not definites right until decreed by a court.
- Contracts – these are not rights but rely on some already-existing right.