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Dried and cracked earth is visible on an unplanted field at a farm on April 29, 2014 near Mendota, California.
After three consecutive years of drought in California, the water supply is running so low that the state and federal government have severely cut water deliveries to cities and farmers.
But because of water laws dating back to the 1800s, there are nearly 4,000 farms, companies and other entities known as "senior rights holders" that are allowed to use as much water as they want, with little to no oversight.
A new Associated Press investigation has found that these high-level water rights holders hold more than half of the claims on the state's rivers and streams. And even though they collectively are the biggest water consumers in the state, they're exempt from government-mandated cuts in water use.