L.A. Times Covers Professor Frank's Testimony to Assembly Committee

On Feb. 28, Professor of Environmental Practice Richard M. Frank testified before the California Assembly’s Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee. The topic of the committee hearing was, “How Should California’s Water Rights System Adapt to a 21st Century Climate?"

Frank’s testimony addressed California’s antiquated water rights system and the need for modifications to make that system nimbler and more responsive to 21st century climate change and drought conditions.  His specific remarks focused on the need to increase the State Water Resources Control Board’s administrative enforcement authority—specifically, to enhance the board’s “interim authority” to stop illegal water diversions that harm other permitted water users and the environment.

Frank also recommended the Legislature grant the board enhanced authority to assess fines for illegal diversions at levels that would serve as an effective deterrent to such conduct — authority, he observed, the board currently lacks.  Frank’s testimony was based in principal part on a set of policy and legal recommendations he and a small working group of water law experts issued in 2022 to update California’s water rights system. The Legislature enacted and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two of those recommended reforms in 2022, and three bills have been introduced in the 2023 session -- including one (AB 460) --  that would enact the specific reforms proposed by Frank in his testimony.

On March 6, the Los Angeles Times published an article headlined “A Fountain of Racism: California’s Antiquated Water Rights System Faces New Scrutiny.” The article focuses primarily on the Legislature’s Feb. 28 hearing, quoting excerpts from the testimony presented by Frank and other witnesses at the committee hearing.

Richard M. Frank ’74 is a leader in the field of environmental law, Professor of Environmental Practice and the founding director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis School of Law.

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