DISTRICT INITIATES LAWSUIT TO DETERMINE WATER RIGHTS
The Indian Wells Valley Water District (“District”) is initiating a water rights lawsuit to resolve the long-standing conditions in the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin (“Basin”) where water use has exceeded groundwater supply for years. This lawsuit is referred to as a “comprehensive adjudication” and should determine the water rights and quantities of all groundwater pumpers in the Basin. This action by the District is necessary to protect and conserve the limited water supply that is vital to the public health, safety, and welfare of all persons and entities in the Basin.
Conditions of “overdraft” have existed in the Basin for decades as a result of groundwater pumping exceeding supply. The Basin underlies approximately 382,000 acres or approximately 600 square miles of land. Approximately 301,000 acres of land overlying the Basin are federal property managed by Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service. The non-federal lands overlying the Basin consist of the City of Ridgecrest and unincorporated land in the Counties of Kern, Inyo, and San Bernardino.
Water rights of the federal government are beyond the jurisdiction of the State to regulate. Under applicable law, the federal government may only participate in a water rights lawsuit if such a case is considered to be what is called a “comprehensive adjudication” involving all stakeholders/pumpers. The District is therefore taking the necessary action of filing a comprehensive adjudication. Such steps will involve all stakeholders/pumpers; protect the general welfare of the Basin; protect the District’s right to pump groundwater from the Basin; protect groundwater quality; and to manage water costs to the public. The goal of the District’s action is to bring long-term and enforceable sustainability to the Basin.
The District is a separate entity from the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (“Authority”) that was formed pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and that developed and adopted what is called the “Groundwater Sustainability Plan” or “GSP” in January 2020. While the District is a member of the Authority, the lawsuit will be filed by the District individually and not as a member of the Authority. Several separate lawsuits have been filed against the Authority alleging that actions taken under the GSP to regulate water use and impose fees are unlawful and excessive.
The District will provide additional information on a regular basis when it becomes available on its website at www.iwvwd.com.