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California fails to adequately track water use

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- California's 19th-century water laws give nearly 4,000 companies, farms and others an unmonitored amount of water for free, while the state is mired in a three-year drought that has forced water cutbacks to cities and agriculture.

An Associated Press review of state Water Resources Control Board records found:

_This group holds more than half of the claims on the state's waterways and uses trillions of gallons of water each year.

_The water rights system relies on self-reported water use records full of errors and years out of date, meaning officials do not know if rights holders are over-drawing or wasting water.

_More than half of the entities with pre-1914 water rights are corporations, and also among the biggest holders are the water departments of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

_Companies, farmers and cities with such water rights are exempt from drought-related cuts in water allotments this year, although they collectively are the biggest water consumers.

_This anachronistic system blunts California water managers' ability to move water where it's most needed.

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