Hastings Law Journal


Brian E. Gray


California's water resources system is poised at a turning point. For the first time since the great era of water project development concluded, water has been directed away from the major water supply projects and reallocated to enhance water quality and instream flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to restore anadromous fish populations in the principal rivers of the Central Valley system.

In this Article, Professor Gray describes and evaluates the laws governing the reallocations of water that have been, or will likely be, engendered by these developments. He begins by reviewing the events that led up to these reallocation decisions. Next, he analyzes California's power under Article X, Section 2 of the state constitution to ensure that its water resources are allocated efficiently and its authority under the public trust doctrine to protect the natural environment. This law of "involuntary reallocation" is followed by a discussion of the state and federal laws that govern the voluntary transfer of water. Professor Gray concludes with a case study that explores the interplay between voluntary and involuntary reallocation and suggests ways in which the law of reasonable use and the public trust doctrine may serve as an inducement to market-based transfers.

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