In November 1928, California voters approved Proposition 7, amending the California constitution to prohibit the waste, unreasonable use, and unreasonable diversion of water. Voters approved the measure by a 3-to-1 margin; it won in every county.
The success of the proposition is easily explained: Water was very much on the minds of California residents at the time. The state had been affected by severe drought throughout much of the 1920s, and two recent state Supreme Court decisions (Antioch and Herminghaus) had a profound bearing on water rights and water disposition.*
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 2. It is hereby declared that because of the conditions prevailing in this State the general welfare requires that the water resources of the State be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable, and that the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use of water be prevented, and that the conservation of such waters is to be exercised with a view to the reasonable and beneficial use thereof in the interest of the people and for the public welfare. The right to water or to the use or flow of water in or from any natural stream or water course in this State is and shall be limited to such water as shall be reasonably required for the beneficial use to be served, and such right does not and shall not extend to the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use or unreasonable method of diversion of water. Riparian rights in a stream or water course attach to, but to no more than so much of the flow thereof as may be required or used consistently with this section, for the purposes for which such lands are, or may be made adaptable, in view of such reasonable and beneficial uses; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be construed as depriving any riparian owner of the reasonable use of water of the stream to which the owner’s land is riparian under reasonable methods of diversion and use, or as depriving any appropriator of water to which the appropriator is lawfully entitled.
This section shall be self-executing, and the Legislature may also enact laws in the furtherance of the policy in this section contained.
For additional information, go to our Delta Public Trust Lawsuit Press Room (link)
*This link provides an example of current wasteful and unreasonable use of water is in the western San Joaquin Valley (link).