Back to Inquiry Set

12E.1.8 California Constitution Article 10 - Water

Text of California Constitution, Article X- Water
California State Legislature

California State Legislature, California Constitution-CONS, ARTICLE X WATER [SECTION 2]

Because everyone relies upon water, and because water is critical to the state’s industries, in 1976 the state government added this section (as part of a larger amendment) to the California Constitution. The state was in the midst of a drought, and voters approved the ballot measure to add this new language to the state constitution. What is the purpose of this amendment? Why might it be important to put regulation(s) on a commonly used natural resource? How might farmers react to the regulations? What might be the incentives for people on both sides of the issue?

This source naturally lends itself to the discussion of the concept of tragedy of the commons. To help students understand the concept, you can relate it to examples of overfishing in open water. Because water is a “common” resource, governments tend to regulate many aspects of its use. Without these regulations, it is entirely possible that individuals or businesses would use water for their own benefit at the expense of the well-being of the other people and plants and animals that also depend on this water. Regulations sometimes limit what people can do; other times, regulations involve charging people a fee or tax to make them internalize their impact on the environment. In the arid West, where water is scarce, water use is often a contentious issue. In California we see water conflicts between Northern and Southern California, as well as between urban users and farmers.

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.