The Associated Press

Senior water rights data - California

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.

Included 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.csv

The Master spreadsheet contains the excerpt from the eWRIMS database. Possible analyses include:


CA_water_right_holder_by_county.xls

The county by county file contains details about the rights holders in each California county. Possible analyses include:

IMPORTANT notes about the data set

Column Definitions

Here is a basic data dictionary for the fields contained in the spreadsheet:

Summary Stats

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.

Top Stats

Right holders by type

Breakdown of water users by type, e.g. corporation, individual, agency, etc.

Type of water rights holder Total rights
Corporation 5,784
Individual 3,552
Limited Liability Company 535
Trust 486
Government (State/Municipal) 292
Organization/Association 154
Federal Government 127
Limited Partner 94
Partnership or Co-owners 52
Estate 12
Joint Venture 2
Receivership/Fiduciary 2
Grand Total 11,092

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
CRANE MILLS 38

Top 20 watersheds

A list of California watersheds with the largest number of claimed rights in 2010.
Watershed Total rights
SAN JOAQUIN DELTA 1,403
RUSSIAN RIVER 642
PIT RIVER 613
SACRAMENTO DELTA 603
KERN RIVER 580
UNKNOWN WATERSHED 376
SALINAS 365
FEATHER RIVER 341
KLAMATH RIVER 336
SUISUN 276
OWENS 244
EEL RIVER 236
TRINITY RIVER 234
AMERICAN RIVER 216
MENDOCINO COAST 209
KAWEAH RIVER 207
NORTH VALLEY FLOOR 204
WHITMORE 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)

PRIMARY_OWNER_NAME TOTAL REPORTED
BY STATE
ACTUAL TOTAL
VERIFIED BY AP
WHY IS THERE
A DIFFERENCE?
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  
PACIFICORP 3,836,044 3,836,044  
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
All data collected and prepared by AP Reporters Garance Burke, Jason Dearen and Data Journalist Serdar Tumgoren.