On Monday, August 21st, the California Supreme Court ruled that seven farmers who had been included in a water rationing plan created by the Mojave River Basin Agency must be compensated for the water when their historical usage is curtailed.
The suit was filed by the City of Barstow, California in 1990 to adjudicate the water rights within the 3,600 square mile Mojave River Basin. The suit also sought to create a rationing plan that would provide water for municipal users by curtailing agricultural use.
Most farmers in the area signed on to the rationing play and agreed to pay fees for its management. Seven farmers objected saying that they had pre-existing water rights and the plan constituted an unconstitutional taking of property.
In siding with the the seven farmers, the California State Supreme Court did not prohibit rationing and water allocation plans but the pre-existing rights of farmers can not be trammeled upon without compensation.
The Supreme Court decision will allow farmers to market their water directly to municipalities and receive bids for their water. This will establish market value that water districts must then honor if sales of water or rationing takes place.
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