Advancing Water Supply Certainty in Uncertain Times
AB 460, AB 1337, & SB 389

10-9-2023 NEWSFASH: SB 389 Signed by Governor Newsom! 

Water, just like air, is a public resource – essential to each and every one of us every day of our lives. We changed the way we manage our air starting in the 1960s and we have all benefited in the decades since. Now, in the face of climate change, we must adapt the way we manage our water for the benefit of all.

The understanding and management of water flows, quality, diversions, beneficial uses, and discharge are all essential given California’s limited and potentially dwindling water supply as we face the challenges of climate change and prolonged droughts.

Today, California lacks the fundamental ability to truly assess how much water is available and how much is being used by all water users. Additionally, California water users, planners, and regulators lack the tools needed to address critical shortages to protect downstream water users and the environment. This combined lack of knowledge and tools leads to uncertainty for all water users – unknown and unregulated use by just one diverter can devastate other senior water users downstream as well as the environment.

These three bills are specifically focused on a fair, balanced, equitable, and timely tool set for the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and water rights holders to more quickly address critical shortages in coming droughts and work towards ensuring the most senior water users provide critical information on historical and current use.

These bills are part of a larger strategy California has developed for adapting to climate change. Other efforts underway include groundwater management planning, groundwater recharge projects, urban storm-water capture, water use reduction, reuse, and recycling across all sectors.

We need to build support and momentum for these modest but essential reforms if we are to address climate change and water equity. These bills protect due process rights for water right holders and ensure greater protections for all beneficial uses including housing and farming. The bills seek to protect the rights and access of legal water users against illegal diversions.

In 2020, Planning and Conservation League (PCL) convened a group of water law and policy experts to develop recommendations for Updating California Water Laws to Address Drought and Climate Change. The report contains 11 recommendations to modernize California’s water rights law. Read the full report here – Updating California Water Laws to Address Drought and Climate Change.

If you would like more information on the three bills or PCL’s water work please contact Johnnie Carlson, Water Policy Coordinator with Planning and Conservation League at

Links to organizational sign-on forms are below and more details on each bill afterward.

Media & News Links

Links to organization sign-on forms

AB 460 sign-on form: Now a two-year bill, sign-on is still welcome and needed!

AB 1337 sign-on form: Now a two-year bill, sign-on is still welcome and needed!

Individual Bills

AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) Interim Relief

Gives the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) clear authority to limit water diversions from all rights holders when there is a shortage, both during drought emergency and non-drought emergency years, and increases fines for unauthorized water diversions. Co-Authors: Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D) and Assembly Member Laura Friedman (D).

Last/Next Action: Passed Assembly Floor (43 ayes, 20 noes, 17 did not vote). Next: Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee in spring 2024.

Bill Link:

Fact Sheet: AB 460 Interim Relief

Sponsors: PCL, CalTrout, & Trout Unlimited

Support: CalTrout, Trout Unlimited, PCL, Heal the Bay, NBJWJ, ICARE, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Eel, Wholly H20, Friends of the River, Environmental Working Group, Northern CA Council, FFI, EnviroVoters, California Water Research, San Francisco Baykeeper, Laura Stokes Online Art Sales and Gallery, NRDC, Mono Lake Committee, Coastkeeper, GGSA, CSPA, CWA, and trust for Public Land.

AB 1337 (Wicks) Fair Regulation of Water Rights

Grants the SWRCB authority to curtail any diverter, regardless of the basis for their right, when water is not available under the diverter’s priority of right.. Author: Assembly Member Buffy Wicks (D).

Last/Next Action: Passed Assembly Floor (45 ayes, 20 noes, 15 did not vote) Next to Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in spring 2024.

Bill Link:

Fact Sheet: AB 1337 (Wicks) (04-20-23)

Sponsors: PCL & California Coastkeeper Alliance

Support: California Coastkeeper Alliance, Planning and Conservation League, Clean Water Action, Friends of the River, Union of Concerned Scientists, Restore the Delta, Friends of the Eel River, Wholly H2O, Defenders of Wildlife, Ban SUP, League of Women Voters, American Rivers, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Leadership Council, California Water Research, Sierra Club California, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, Coachella Valley Waterkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, Inland Empire Waterkeeper, San Diego Coastkeeper, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Monterey Waterkeeper, Russian Riverkeeper, Yuba River Waterkeeper, South Yuba River Citizens League, Humboldt Baykeeper. Several other groups have submitted their own support letters including Caltrout, Mono Lake Committee, Trout Unlimited, and California Environmental Voters.

SB 389 (Allen) Surface Water Rights Verification

To obtain a more accurate evaluation of water usage in a given system, SB 389 grants the SWRCB the authority to review, verify, and issue decisions on senior water rights claims not granted via the Water Commission Act of 1913 (the Act), namely pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water rights. Author: Senator Ben Allen (D).

SB 389 gives the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) the explicit authority to investigate the validity and scope of pre-1914 and riparian rights. Now, these two groups – who hold 45% of rights and 35% of California’s water by volume – are finally subject to the SWRCB oversight we rely on to prevent unchecked water theft.

Final Action: Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 8th!
For Immediate Release 10-9-23 SB 389 Signed by Governor Newsom

Bill Link:

Fact Sheet: SB 389 Surface Water Right Verification 5.11.23

SB 389 Q & A: SB 389 Q&A

Sponsor: PCL

Support: Planning and Conservation League, Wholly H2O, California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Outdoors, Cal Trout, Northern California Council of Fly Fishers International, Climate Reality California Coalition, Mono Lake Committee, Climate Reality, California Environmental Voters, Sierra Club California, Natural Heritage Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Climate Action California, California Water Research, Friends of the River, Restore the Delta, Trout Unlimited, Union of Concerned Scientists, Coast Action Group. Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Protection Information Center, Restoring the Stanislaus, Natural Resources Defense Council, Social Eoc Education, Audubon California, Active San Gabriel Valley, and the South Yuba River Citizens League.

PCL has been a leader in water policy for 55+ years. Click here to read some historic state bills PCL helped pass.