Water Law in California: How Earning an Advanced Degree Can Help Your Career

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Water Law in California

As California continues to grow, water rights continue to play an important, though often controversial, role in shaping its future. According to the Water Education Foundation, California’s growth has closely paralleled an evolving and complex system of water rights. So where do we go from here?

For some context, California has two kinds of water rights. First, there are the older riparian rights – water rights laws based on ownership of land bordering a waterway. Clashing with these are appropriative rights, a practice that allows for water use based on physical control and beneficial use of the water without regard to the relationship of land to water. 

Further complicating matters is the California Constitution, requiring that all water use be both “reasonable and beneficial” according to the State Supreme Court, though reasonableness is determined by the circumstances and “varies as the current situation changes.” Meanwhile, the federal government can get involved when water quality issues arise, which may affect allocation. Clearly, there are a lot of factors at play. 

The State of California’s Water

Speaking of water quality, this past October marked the 50th anniversary of Congress passing the Clean Water Act. The White House released a proclamation stating that before this landmark legislation, America’s waters were in crisis, often flooded and even on fire with toxic pollution and cancer-causing contaminants. But while it’s true that five decades later, our nation’s waters are dramatically cleaner, there’s a lot left to be done.

As noted by the LA Times, in California and much of the West, less ample and therefore slower moving water paired with increasingly hotter temperatures promotes the growth of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria. These can release toxins that in turn make sloughs and ponds poisonous to people who fish in or drink from them. Earlier this year, for example, the state found that nearly 1 million Californians drink tainted water

In 50 years, the amount of climate, political, and social change has wreaked havoc on the landscape. It’s quite clear that they’re correct to invoke an update from our nation’s leaders. In the meantime, it’s critical for qualified legal professionals to step up and step in where it counts. When such looming issues face the state, careers and jobs related to California water law are very likely to be on the rise.

McGeorge’s Programs Tackle Water Law in California

If you’re interested in entering this critical field at a particularly opportune moment, the best way to do so is by bolstering your education. McGeorge’s world-class Water & Environmental Law program is the foundation for its successful online MSL and LLM programs in Water & Environmental Law. This master’s degree provides the opportunity to learn from McGeorge’s distinguished faculty and program team in addition to panels of experts who focused on water and environmental law and the changing policies surrounding both.

The courses are taught by expert faculty who are chosen for outstanding teaching as well as depth of knowledge in water and environmental law. They emphasize the development of real-world knowledge and practical skills. The perfect example is the dedicated McGeorge School of Law Professor Jennifer Harder, who recently spent 1.5 years collaborating with a group of esteemed water experts on the development of recommendations for reforming California water. Professor Harder also serves as co-director of McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law Concentration and as the Faculty Director for Online Learning, so she and other groundbreaking leaders are actively involved in advancing the field– and your education.

With courses like Water Resources Law, students gain practical understanding of water allocation and use in contemporary society, and critically examine the social policies that govern water management. Later on, the more advanced Water and Environmental Justice course explores challenges and opportunities in providing a healthy environment and safe, affordable, accessible, and reliable water supplies to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, national origin, and education level. These are just two of the classes in a standout curriculum designed to give graduates an education both expansive and in-depth.

An MSL or LLM Degree Can Elevate Your Career in Water

The MSL degree is a part-time, fully online, 26-unit degree program with asynchronous lectures. Students interact with their professors and classmates weekly through discussion boards throughout the program, have opportunities to work on projects with classmates, and meet with professors virtually in flexible office hours. Typically, the coursework is spread over two years, but feel free to contact the Assistant Dean for Graduate and Online Programs to personalize your degree to your optimal benefit.

Our online MSL and LLM programs for Water and Environmental Law prepare professionals like you to tackle this issue head-on within industry leadership roles. These degrees provide value to land use planners, engineers, environmental consultants, public information officers, lobbyists, public agency and legislative staff, and others who seek expertise in this continually-evolving field without earning a law degree. Our online degrees are the practical solution to a career search that’s looking to affect real environmental change in a positive way.