About the data set
California's drought-ravaged reservoirs are running so low that state water deliveries to some metropolitan areas have all but stopped, and cutbacks are forcing growers to fallow fields. But 19th-century laws allow nearly 4,000 companies, farms and other water rights holders to use an unmonitored amount of water for free _ and in some cases, to sell what they don't need.
The Associated Press is providing two spreadsheets as part of this story package that reveal the names and locations of those corporations, individuals and public agencies whose grandfathered legal rights allow them to use trillions of gallons of water each year.
The original data source for this story is eWRIMS, a database kept by California's State Water Resources Control Board based on reports filed by companies, farms and landholders that have old rights to an unmonitored amount of water. The database is based on paper and some electronic records that were filed by almost 4,000 corporations, agricultural districts, cities and individuals in California that have what are called senior and riparian water rights.
The board's public-facing website allows for some limited searches of these rights holders:
Waterboards.ca.gov search page.
Because the online search tool does not display many details, AP requested and received the underlying database from the board and used it to prepare the provided spreadsheets.
AP is providing two spreadsheets offering new angles and opportunities to localize the data for members' target audiences. The master file and the county-by-county breakdown showing the names of rights holders and the number of rights they possess provide numerous options for localization.Download the data files: CA_drought_broken_water_system_data.zip
CA_drought_broken_water_system_data.csvThe Master spreadsheet contains the excerpt from the eWRIMS database. Possible analyses include:
- Number of rights per holder. A breakdown of the number of water rights each rights holder has statewide.
- Right holders by type, by county. A county-by-county breakdown of those rights holders that are corporations, individuals, government agencies, etc.
- Watershed by number of rights. A breakdown of the number of water rights on each California watershed.
CA_water_right_holder_by_county.xlsThe county by county file contains details about the rights holders in each California county. Possible analyses include:
- County by County list. A breakdown of the number of water rights per county, and the number each holder has in each county.
IMPORTANT notes about the data set
- The State Water Resources Control Board acknowledges its database contains errors. Those may have arisen when the state translated figures on the paper reports into its database or when the filers themselves entered in their reports. Given that, the AP does not recommend summing the total amount of water reported used so omitted this field from the spreadsheet.
- The AP focused on 2010 because it is the most complete, most recent year available. Previous years' data that may show up through the state's online search tool would need to be independently verified and were not analyzed by AP.
- The data provided includes details about entities that hold senior or riparian rights to water, neither of which is usually subject to cutbacks during a drought. A senior water right is one that was claimed before 1914. A riparian water right is one that may have been claimed after 1914 by an entity that owns land abutting a waterway.
- Some rights are inactive, so any conclusions about the number of rights in each locality should reflect the status of the right.
- The online interface for eWRIMS, Waterboards.ca.gov search page, allows access to paper records that contain more detailed information beyond the scope of the spreadsheet, including who filed the report, what users say they do with the water, whether they are conserving, etc. Members seeking to background specific rights holders can find more details there.
- The "PRIMARY_OWNER_NAME" values have been converted to uppercase for consistency and clarity.
Here is a basic data dictionary for the fields contained in the spreadsheet:
- PRIMARY_OWNER_NAME: STRING - Names of the senior and riparian rights holders.
- PRIMARY_OWNER_PARTY_ID: STRING - Unique IDs that are assigned to each rights holder.
- STATEMENT_NO.: STRING - Numbers assigned to the individual rights to different watersheds that each rights holder may have.
- COUNTY: STRING - California county in which the water right is held.
- WATERSHED: STRING - Broad California watershed on which the water right is held.
- SOURCE_NAME: STRING - Specific source of water on which the water right is held.
- CURRENT_STATUS: STRING - Whether the water right is active (claimed) or inactive.
- PRIMARY_OWNER_TYPE: NUMBER - Type of entity corresponding to each rights holder, e.g. corporation, individual, government agency, etc.
There are nearly 4,000 companies, farms and other water rights holders that can use an unmonitored amount of water for free in California, even during a drought.
This group of senior and riparian water right holders holds more than half of the claims on the state's waterways and uses trillions of gallons of water each year. Senior and riparian rights holders have 15,759 rights to California waterways, whereas junior rights holders claimed 13,116 rights to water after 1914, according to the state.
More than half of the entities with pre-1914 water rights are corporations, and among the biggest holders are the water departments of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Just 24 senior and riparian water rights holders reported using more than twice the volume of water that California's vast system of state and federal dams and aqueducts normally ships to cities and farms in an average year, The AP found.
Right holders by type
Breakdown of water users by type, e.g. corporation, individual, agency, etc.
|Type of water rights holder||Total rights|
|Limited Liability Company||535|
|Partnership or Co-owners||52|
Top 20 water rights holders
California entities holding the most water rights in 2010.
|Water rights holder||Total rights|
|US BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT||1062|
|SIERRA PACIFIC INDUSTRIES||492|
|CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPT OF WATER & POWER||171|
|PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC COMPANY||167|
|DIAMOND LANDS CORPORATION||135|
|ROSEBURG RESOURCES COMPANY||107|
|DELTA WETLANDS PROPERTIES||89|
|CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE||78|
|U S BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT||73|
|U S MENDOCINO NATL FOREST||71|
|NEW FORESTRY, LLC||68|
|WILLIAM BARRON HILTON TRUST||65|
|U S ELDORADO NATL FOREST||53|
|THE NATURE CONSERVANCY||52|
|VICTORIA ISLAND LP||43|
|CALIF DEPT OF PARKS & RECREATION||41|
|U S LASSEN NATL FOREST||39|
|U S NATIONAL PARK SERVICE||39|
|U S SEQUOIA NATL FOREST||39|
Top 20 watershedsA list of California watersheds with the largest number of claimed rights in 2010.
|SAN JOAQUIN DELTA||1,403|
|NORTH VALLEY FLOOR||204|
|EAST WALKER RIVER||201|
Top 25 users as reported by the state with corrections verified by AP
The following table shows a comparison of a) what California's State Water Resources Control Board originally reported as the Top 25 water rights holders that consumed the most water in 2010 with b) the actual amount consumed, verified by AP. The state acknowledged that a number of its entries were incorrect, so AP reporters independently confirmed via telephone or email with each of those rights holders the volume of water they actually used in 2010. Eight of the entities that the state reported as the Top 25 water users were errors. The figures farther down on the state's list could not be confirmed.
Values for "TOTAL REPORTED BY STATE" and "ACTUAL TOTAL VERIFIED BY AP" are in acre-feet (1 acre-foot = 325.851 thousand gallons)
VERIFIED BY AP
|WHY IS THERE
|LOUIS CHACON||11,999,999,988||N/A||Numbers entered incorrectly|
|HACIENDA CARMEL COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION||8,361,636||25.67||Acre-feet checked instead of gallons|
|TEICHERT LAND COMPANY||7,644,325||300||Acre-feet checked instead of gallons|
|ADRIANA DAKIN||4,950,021||less than 1||Numbers entered incorrectly|
|PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC COMPANY||4,903,962||4,903,962|
|TURLOCK IRRIGATION DISTRICT||1,922,039||1,922,039|
|WYNTOON ESTATE, LLC||1,800,491||448||Acre-feet checked instead of gallons|
|CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO PUC AGM WATER ENTERPRISE||1,192,563||1,192,563|
|CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPT OF WATER & POWER||991,870||991,870|
|Y HAYASHI & SONS||875,000||550||Numbers entered incorrectly|
|SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON COMPANY||770,271||770,271|
|GLENN-COLUSA IRRIGATION DISTRICT||770,271||770,271|
|U S NATIONAL PARK SERVICE||657,417||2,712||Acre-feet checked instead of gallons|
|JOINT WATER DISTRICTS BOARD||647,760||647,760|
|YOLO COUNTY F C & W C DISTRICT||588,783||588,783|
|MERCED IRRIGATION DISTRICT||332,146||332,146|
|NEVADA IRRIGATION DISTRICT||317,994||317,994|
|ORANGE COUNTY WATER DISTRICT||298,152||298,152|
|WESTERN CANAL WATER DISTRICT||291,674||291,674|
|CITY OF BAKERSFIELD||255,018||255,018|
|STRYKER SONOMA VINEYARDS||236,320||less than 1||Acre-feet checked instead of gallons|
|NORTH KERN WATER STORAGE DISTRICT||224,600||224,600|
|TRUCKEE MEADOWS WATER AUTHORITY||217,130||217,130|
|KERN DELTA WATER DISTRICT||163,368||163,368|