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4,000 California Entities Are Allowed Unlimited Water

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Though the entire state is in the middle of a terrifying megadrought, specific cities and regions have all been affected differently. The AP has found that around 4,000 California entities—many of them companies, farms, or water districts—have not been affected by it at all as they continue to have access to an "unmonitored amount of free water", thanks to water laws dating back to the Nineteenth Century that are still in place. As a result of these laws, the so-called "senior rights holders" aren't required to have meters or devices that monitor water flow like all the rest of us. Instead, they're supposed to self-report their own usage—a system that's led to incredible errors, like the one that showed a small-time cattle farmer on 15 acres of land using 10,000 times more water in a year than the whole LA Department of Water and Power. The AP found that there were eight such errors on the list of the top 25 water users in the state. Unfortunately, says a rep for the water board, even though they know there are errors, there isn't the staff to correct "even the most obvious mistakes" and so they just keep on using that data to decide where to hand out new water permits. Errors taken out of the running, the AP found these six senior rights holders at the top of the consumption list. The number following each entry is the acre-feet consumed in 2010. (An acre-foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons and is the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land in a foot of water.)

· Pacific Gas and Electric Company: 4,903,962
· Pacificorp: 3,836,044
· Turlock Irrigation District: 1,922,039
· City and County of San Francisco PUC AGM Water Enterprise: 1,192,563
· LA Department of Water and Power: 991,870
· Southern California Edison Co.: 770,271

In all, the nearly 4,000 senior rights holders use trillions of gallons of water a year and are not required to comply with drought-time restrictions and conservation measures, even though together they make up the majority of the state's water users.
· Calif.'s flawed water system can't track usage; LADWP, SoCal Edison among biggest users [SCPR]
· Semi-Arid SoCal is More "Drought-Proof" Than Soggy NorCal [Curbed LA]