Environment | Law

Agua Caliente Band sues agencies to safeguard water rights

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians sued two water agencies in southern California to protect its water rights.

The tribe is asserting senior water rights in the Coachella Valley. The lawsuit accuses the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency of failing to protect the water supply.

"The failed stewardship of the Coachella Valley's most precious resource by these water districts has to stop," Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said in a press release. "We do not take this action lightly but as a Sovereign Nation, we have a responsibility, as well as a commitment to communities in the Coachella Valley, to protect and preserve the valley's natural resources. We cannot sit idly by as the aquifer continues to be depleted and the water polluted. Our water quality is among the worst in the state."

The tribe cited a study by the U.S. Geological Survey that found higher levels of contaminants in Coachella Valley aquifers compared to the rest of the state. Arsenic, boron, fluoride and radioactive elements were among the chemicals found, according to the report.

"Since at least the 1990's, the Agua Caliente and others have aggressively urged the CVWD and DWA to take action to end the mismanagement, overdrafting and polluting of the aquifer underlying the Coachella Valley," Grubbe added. "The Tribe has patiently attempted to work with CVWD and DWA to address these long standing concerns but to no avail. This precious resource is crucial to the future of this region and we must take action now."

The Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency said they were disappointed to learn of the lawsuit. Representatives said they had been talking with the tribe about the issue.

Turtle Talk has posted the complaint in the case, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District .

Get the Story:
Agua Caliente tribe sues over Palm Springs area water (The Palm Springs Desert Sun 5/15)
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians files suit, asserts water rights (Southwest Riverside News Network 5/15)
Water agencies respond to Agua Caliente lawsuit seeking control of local water rights (KESQ-TV 5/14)

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