Recent California legislation has promised solutions to longstanding problems in groundwater management through an emphasis on management of groundwater itself, rather than on the rights of overlying property owners. In this short communication, I argue that the promises of scientific management relies on property law and jurisdiction and therefore that scientific claims about the water itself are less important than private property claims in the case of a Cadiz Inc.’s proposed groundwater extraction project in Southeastern California. While private property in land insulates Cadiz Inc. (Los Angeles, CA, USA) from political contestation, opposition to the project has increasingly focused on the right to transport and transfer water through lands not held by Cadiz Inc. This legal strategy points to how California groundwater law is still fundamentally ruled by private property in land, which shifts the grounds of environmental politics from extraction itself to the transport of extracted materials. This case serves as a good example of the intersection of political ecology and legal geography.
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