Shasta Dam in the late 1970s.
Photo by Tim Stroshane
What’s paper water? It’s “water” that exists in policy, documents or agreements – but not in the real world. In other words, it’s fantasy water that contractors and politicians use to legitimize unsustainable diversions and development.
Paper water exists for all of California’s major watersheds, though it is difficult to determine the precise “amount.” In any event, it is the primary driver of California’s water problems, leading to oversubscription, inequitable distribution, overcharging of ratepayers, and ecosystem and fisheries decline.
California law provides three avenues for people fighting unfair water distribution:
- Mutual binding agreements
- The courts (a judge adjudicating a stream or other water source)
- The State Water Board (in regard to appropriative water right permit holders)
C-WIN fights paper water before the State Water Board through our Water Rights Action Program, where we emphasize public interest, public trust resources, constitutional waste, and unreasonable use issues.
Additionally, C-WIN also fights paper water as it pertains to the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.