California’s water rights system was established in 1913. Those with the longest rights get top priority; they’re called senior rights holders.
But they were not immune to the ongoing drought.
In June the state took the unusual step of ordering even senior rights holders to stop drawing water. It recently announced about 240 of those holders can begin taking water again.
Jennifer Harder is an associate professor at McGeorge School of Law. She says overall, the system is working as it was intended.
"What we really need to do is to improve the data that the state water board has to make those decisions," she says.
Harder says the state should also pay more attention to ensuring all communities have access to clean, reliable drinking water.