Tribal Water Law and Policy


As a result of tribes' sovereign status and federally recognized water rights, they have an important place in the management and allocation of California’s water resources. While most water rights are based on state law, federal law recognizes a special type of water right commonly known as “federal reserved rights.” This right was first recognized in 1906 by the United States Supreme Court in Winters v. United States and applies to certain federal lands, including tribal reservations. Many California tribes have established reserved rights or are in the process of asserting them. This class will cover the legal foundation and policy behind Indian water rights and how these rights fit in California’s water allocation system. Students will review recent developments involving Indian water rights, including quantification through litigation and congressionally approved water rights settlements. They will also review Indian water rights issues in the Klamath, Lake Tahoe and Colorado River basins. This unique class is a continuation of the California Water Law and Policy course and would be of interest to policy executives, water and environmental officials and tribal representatives who wish to better understand California water.

Topics include:

  • The importance of Indian water rights
  • The legal bases for tribal sovereignty
  • Overview of California surface water and groundwater systems
  • The origin of federal reserved water rights and the Winters Doctrine
  • Scope and nature of reserved water rights
  • Quantification of Indian water rights
  • McCarran Amendment and state court adjudication
  • Application to groundwater
  • Tribal water rights settlements
  • Transferring Indian water rights
  • Control of river navigation and riverbeds on tribal lands
  • The effect of the Endangered Species Act on Indian water rights
  • Regulation within reservations and Indian Water Codes
  • Tribal regulation of water quality
Section Number
Instruction Method
Online class

Section Notes

This is an online, remote learning course, which consists of content and curriculum that is taught with pre-recorded and real time lectures, in addition to a real-time Q&A session with the instructor. Pre-recorded lectures and live sessions are accessed via our Canvas learning system and Zoom. Details regarding login information will be emailed out prior to the course start date.

This course will be available on Canvas from April 14 - 16, 2021. A live Zoom meeting will be held on Friday April 16, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM PDT. In the classroom environment, this course is equivalent to a one-day course.

Enrollment Policies

Drop requests (withdraw with a refund) will be approved, less a $30 processing fee, if the request is received seven calendar days before the course begins. Click here to view complete enrollment policy information including details on withdrawals and transfers.


Group Discount

Groups of three or more, enrolled at the same time with a single payment method may receive a 10% discount on each enrollment.  Contact UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Student Services office to enroll your group: (530) 757-8777.

Early Enroll Discount

Enroll 14 days before the course start date to save 10% on the course fee.

Info Session Discount

Attendees of UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Information Sessions may be eligible for $100 discount on a class by entering the Coupon Code provided at the Information Session.  Contact UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Student Services office, at (800) 752-0881, if you have questions about this discount.

CAAA Member Discount

Current members of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and other UC alumni associations receive $50 off the course fee. If you don't have your association discount code contact UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Student Services at (800) 752-0881.