Water Rights

TID holds historic Water Rights on the Tuolumne River on behalf of our diverse community.

Water is a public trust, owned by the people of the state of California. Water rights are not ownership, but the rights to put that water to use.

In California, water rights are property and can be sold or transferred to willing buyers who can put the water rights to reasonable use.

TID, who jointly owns its water rights with the Modesto Irrigation District, has an assortment of pre- and post-1914 water rights that cover diversion, storage, and power generation. These water rights are the most senior known appropriative water rights on the Tuolumne River — the oldest of which is from 1871.

The District hold these water rights on behalf of the diverse community it represents.

Water Rights System

California Water Rights System

In California, water rights are property and can be sold or transferred to willing buyers who can put the water rights to reasonable use.

The Legal structure around water rights provides certainty and clarity to users of water rights. This certainty has allowed for the development of California water infrastructure over the last 150 years. Some 40 million Californians depend on these investments which have led to California being one of the most prosperous places in the world.

State Water Board Authority

Especially in times of drought, there have been calls to greatly expand and increase the authorities of the State Water Board.

It should be noted that the State Water Board already possesses broad authorities to administer the water rights priority system, including, but not limited to:

  • Water Code sections 1052 and 1831 to address unauthorized diversions. The Board itself has broad authority under Water Code sections 1051 and 1825 to investigate the legality of water use, to determine whether a diversion is authorized, and to cease and desist orders and fines when warranted.
  • Water Code Section 1058.5 grants the State Water Board authority to adopt emergency regulations in drought years to implement the water rights priority system and to prevent unauthorized diversion of water.
  • All water rights holders who divert water, under any basis of right, are required to measure the water they divert and report that information to the State Water Board, and the State Water Board may issue fines for diverters who fail to timely file such reports.
  • Water Code Section 1051 of the Water Code authorizes the State Water Board to investigate stream systems, and Sections 2500-2900 authorize the State Water Board to determine all rights to water of a stream system.

Improving the Water Rights system

TID acknowledges that recent events and an extended drought have highlighted areas in which the State Water Board, in order to more efficiently administer the system, would need to make targeted improvements, including:

  • Encouraging the State Water Board to relentlessly enforce the current water rights system using its already-existing authorities.
  • Increasing fines for water users who violate the tenets of their rights, take water without right, or otherwise unlawfully injure legal water users. Violations during emergency curtailment should be increasingly punitive.
  • Increasing funding for SWRCB staffing to enforce the existing priority system.
  • Increasing funding for SWRCB data management efforts and digital upgrades.
  • Increase funding for installation of gages at priority locations.
  • Encouraging the collection and reporting of flow data on a real-time basis.
  • Increasing opportunities to use water for groundwater recharge, including increasing the efficiency of the water rights permitting application process.

TID opposes the following legislation:

  • AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) SWRCB: Interim Relief
  • AB 1337 (Wicks) SWRCB: Expanded Curtailment Authority
  • SB 389 (Allen) SWRCB: Determination of a Water Right

TID supports the following legislation:

  • SB 366 (Caballero) The California Water Plan: Long-term supply targets
  • SB 659 (Ashby) California Water Supply Solutions Act of 2023
  • SB 23 (Caballero) Water Supply and Flood Risk Reduction Projects
  • SB 361 (Dodd) Water Resources: Stream Gages
  • AB 30 (Ward) Atmospheric Rivers

Contact Josh Weimer for information on current California water legislation.

TID Water Rights

Water Rights Table

Application IDWater Right TypeDate
S013849Statement of Diversion and UsePre-1914
S013849Statement of Diversion and UsePre-1914
A033277Appropriative – Pending1/26/2022

TID has always been

Prudent Stewards

TID continually meets or exceeds minimum flow requirements for the Tuolumne River. We always carry over the subsequent year’s fish flow requirements in Don Pedro, hence we do not request Temporary Urgent Change Petitions from the SWRCB (California State Water Resources Control Board) to reduce river releases.


TID regularly files both annual and enhanced water rights reports with regulators. These reports are publicly available.

Real-time diversions and river level data is readily available on our website.

Industry Leaders

TID’s hydrology modeling and forecasting program is recognized as an industry leader. We regularly invest in new technologies and data collection to improve water management. TID has advocated for state and federal investment in these technologies in addition to seasonal and sub-seasonal forecasting.