Interest may be rising in the Legislature for modernizing California’s water rights system, according to Ana Jovel Melendez, who directs legislative affairs at the State Water Resources Control Board. She was responding to concerns over water rights at a joint meeting of state and regional water boards on Thursday.

“A huge amount of money from the private sector is buying up water rights, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Los Angeles regional board member Jim Stahl, who felt the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is pitting ag against urban areas.

Melendez pointed out that lawmakers drafted SGMA in response to the last drought.

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“The new conversation here does seem to be about water rights,” she said, noting that the Legislature allocated $30 million for upgrading the water rights data system. “What that says to me is that we do see an interest in the Legislature in wanting to discuss and figure out how we modernize these systems.”

Members of the state water board earlier this year raised the notion of updating in the system to streamline curtailments for senior water rights, avoiding the current process of emergency orders that can take months to process.