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socallegalwork, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 144
Experience:  Attorney and licensed real estate broker (and Certified Distressed Property Expert), specializing in real estate matters.
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I own property in Big Pine, Ca. Inyo County and there has

Customer Question

I own property in Big Pine, Ca. Inyo County and there has been a small ditch with water flowing in it every spring through fall for over 100 years. The Department of Water & Power own most of the water in the entire Owens Valley but a few people still own a few shares of it. My Grandmother Nancy Blake Rossi never sold her property or her water shares. Prior to her death she divided her property in 4 sections for her 4 children but left all of the shares of water with her own property which was deeded to her oldest daughter who lived at home with her at the time of her death. The family has always shared the ditch water which ran through all of our properties until about 3 years ago when my cousin who inherited his Mothers property (originally my Grandmothers property) with all of the water rights decided it all belonged to him. He has sent very little down the ditch for the last 2 summers but this summer he has damned it up & we no longer get any water. Do I have any legal right to have the water restored in my ditch?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  socallegalwork replied 1 year ago.

Hello. I believe I can assist you. It sounds like there is a ditch (which can maybe be defined as a small creek perhaps) that runs through all of the properties (everyone is adjacent to the water source).

You are in California, where most of the water rights are owned by the government. Except in this case. Fortunately, California is also one of the very few Western states that also recognize riparian rights. A riparian water right is a right to use the natural flow of water on your land.

The problem we have is that all of the water rights are apparently legally owned by the one property owner. So you may have to seek a prescriptive right (a right acquired through adverse possession of someone else's water right) to that water. In other words, you would be arguing that notwithstanding who may be the owner of record of that water, you have been accessing and using that water for a considerable period of time without any protest or opposition until now by the other side and, therefore, have gained something akin to a "squatter's right" to the water.

In California, the courts have stated that the only way to seek a new water right is to apply for and receive a water right permit from the State Water Board.

Expert:  socallegalwork replied 1 year ago.

Hello. I think you responded by posting another question. In order to keep things simple I will respond on this original thread.

I believe your follow up question was how to seek a water right permit. You complete an application with the Division of Rights. You can find the application on this website in pdf form:

On the application you want to emphasize that your usage isn't depriving others and your usage is not harming any public resources.

Here is the thing. the application process is VERY expensive. I just looked up the current fee schedule and it appears you would be facing a minimum of $1000.


In light of this, you will need to weigh the benefits versus the costs. Is it possible you can negotiate with the current owner of the water rights for usage for a sum or seasonal fee that would be considerably less?

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