'They Can Have My Hose When They Pry It from My Cold Dead Hands': When California Is Faced with a Drought, Who Gets Water and Who Goes Without?
47 Tex. Envtl. L. J. 57 (2017)
32 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2016 Last revised: 7 Jul 2017
Date Written: April 25, 2016
California is drying up. Rivers and lakes have become cracked patches of earth. Water tables have dropped so low that tap water is a memory in some towns. Fields that once fed the nation, the globe, lie fallow, baking in the dusty heat.
What seems like a matter for the state’s environmental agencies is actually a grave concern for the entire nation. With the largest American economy and extensive food production obligations, California is too big to fail, and without water it will. Judges, lawyers, agencies, and water consumers have found that California’s water law system is poorly equipped to handle the new conditions of the drought. Some uses of water, once appropriate and reasonable, are now unconscionably wasteful. Judges may find that old, familiar precedents must be adapted to the new environment or abandoned all together.
Though California prioritizes domestic water use over irrigation for commercial agriculture, the state’s courts must take care to minimize the impact their decisions may have on agriculture, staving off calamity until policy and legislative changes can ensure the state’s long-term economic and environmental viability. This Comment outlines the issues California’s courts will face, analyzes how existing state law can address those issues in the short-term, and proposes potential solutions that the courts, the state legislature, and Congress may implement.
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