Water Rights Fight Heats Up

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It's a precious resource, and Californians’ rights to use it just keep shrinking.

But for California farmers, who labor under the sun to fill our fields with food, water rights are nearly non-existent.

“We work hard at it, and its sad that like our livelihood's being affected by our state, you know?" one farmer named John said.

“When you have more demand and less supply, someone has to stop taking water," said George, another.

Friday, California water regulators ordered land owners with senior water rights--some of the oldest in the state--to stop pulling water out of local rivers.

In a written statement, Steve Knell with the Oakdale Irrigation District responded”

"There’s a reason for that. The water board does not have the jurisdiction to issue, manage, oversee or curtail pre-1914 water rights."

It's a sentiment many pre-1903 land owners believe.

“Some of them feel like we do not have the authority to go ahead and tell them to stop taking water. However, we do have authority in the water code," George said.

Regardless of who's right, those in the agriculture industry have been preparing for the fight, cutting water usage, switching to drip irrigation and storing water in reserves.

“Now they feel helpless because the state is trying to divert a lot of the water that we use to feed the world," John said.