Although California courts have consistently held that riparian water rights do not attach to federal lands, the courts have failed to distinguish between federal lands in the public domain and federal lands withdrawn from the public domain or reserved for a particular purpose. This Comment first describes water rights on federal lands and reviews California water rights doctrine. The Comment then analyzes the California cases, which are based on a series of nineteenth century acts of Congress, that hold that no riparian rights attach to federal lands. The Comment argues that the effect of removing lands from the public domain is to remove those lands from the operation of those acts. The Comment concludes that the California cases are limited to public domain lands and that the federal government can therefore assert riparian water rights on lands removed from the public domain. Finally, this analysis is applied to the withdrawn lands at Mono Lake to demonstrate how an assertion of riparian rights by the federal government could prevent or limit further diversion of water out of Mono Lake Basin.
Richard P. Shanahan,
The Application of California Riparian Water Rights Doctrine to Federal Lands in the Mono Lake Basin,
34 Hastings L.J. 1293
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol34/iss5/11