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California State Water Project Water Rights

How the State Reserved Water Rights for the State Water Project

The State’s effort to acquire the rights to the water that the SWP now conserves and conveys began more than 70 years ago. In 1927, the California Legislature passed a law that gave the Department of Finance authority to file applications to reserve unappropriated water for future development according to statewide plans.

The Department of Finance filed a number of applications on July 30, 1927, the day after the law became effective, to establish water rights under the plans of that time for coordinated development of California’s water resources. The applications were assigned to and are held by the State, the United States, or other agencies. Water rights permits were issued on many of these applications to implement plans for water projects: DWR for the SWP, the Bureau of Reclamation for the Central Valley Project, and other agencies for local projects.