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DWA and CVWD call on Tribe to Drop Lawsuit and Work with Them To Chart a Strong Future for the Region's Water Supply and Economy
Litigation Seeks Public's Water Rights to Make Money for the Tribe
Palm Springs, CA—Desert Water Agency (DWA) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) today urged the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians to drop the lawsuit it has filed against the two water agencies so the tribe can work with them to chart a strong future for the region's water supply and economy.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians sued DWA and CVWD on May 14 to take away the public's rights to use Coachella Valley Groundwater and prevent the public agencies' delivery of water to their customers. The federal lawsuit would stop DWA and CVWD from their current usage of Colorado River water to recharge the Upper Coachella Valley Basin, and it would prevent the agencies from pumping groundwater to serve the homes and businesses of the Coachella Valley.
"We call on the tribe to end this costly and unnecessary litigation so we can return to our ongoing discussions about how best to ensure the Coachella Valley will continue to have a safe, reliable and affordable water supply," said DWA Board President Patricia Oygar. "Just the filing of this lawsuit is hurting the economy because it's creating great uncertainty about future water supplies."
She urged the tribe to work with DWA and CVWD through the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP), a collaborative effort to manage all aspects of water resources in a region. The IRWMP crosses jurisdictional, watershed and political boundaries; involves multiple agencies, stakeholders, individuals and groups, and attempts to address the issues and differing perspectives of all the entities involved through mutually beneficial solutions.
DWA and CVWD have worked with the tribe in the past on some of the same matters raised in the lawsuit, and both agencies have a long history of protecting the water supply and providing water that meets all state and federal water quality standards.
"We are committed to working with the tribe, but it would be irresponsible for us to engage in discussions with a tribe whose pending lawsuit and public relations campaign use scare tactics and makes false accusations in an attempt to take away the public's water rights," said CVWD Board President John Powell, Jr. "While the tribe is not answerable to the public, DWA and CVWD are nonprofit public agencies that must serve the public interest and must act to protect the public's water rights including the rights of the tribe."
In its lawsuit, the tribe doesn't say how much water it wants or what it would do with that water. It has no pipes, pumps or other infrastructure to deliver the water to customers. It has no expertise in water management.
"If we were forced to buy water from the tribe, we would have to raise water rates to pay the tribe," said DWA President Oygar. "Worse yet, if the tribe didn't sell the water to us, we would lose access to some - or all - of the existing water supplies, forcing substantial cutbacks in water to customers, higher rates, potential building moratoriums and further damage to the region's recovering economy."
For decades, DWA and CVWD have ensured that this desert region - where water must be imported - has the supplemental water supplies necessary to sustain life and support the local economy. The agencies import water from the Colorado River, a source of drinking water for 33 million people, and exchange it for State Water Project (SWP) supplies. The agencies have SWP water rights but no aqueduct or other means for delivering that water to the region.
The Colorado River water is added to the Upper Coachella Valley groundwater supply - as is done by water agencies throughout the state - to recharge the basin and address the issue of overdrafts.
The tribe is questioning this practice without offering feasible solutions. The only options CVWD's experts have identified are cost-prohibitive - with price tags of as much as $1.5 billion or an additional charge of as much as $450 a year for an average customer.
"We are not going to spend our ratepayers' hard earned money to build treatment plants when we already meet all water quality standards. Doing so would unnecessarily force us to impose price hikes of as much as $450 a year for our average customers," said CVWD President Powell. "We call on the tribe to tell us how it would accomplish the goals of its lawsuit without unnecessarily burdening our customers with skyrocketing water bills or substantial cutbacks in their water supplies. We look forward to an end to this litigation so that we can all work together to ensure a strong future for the Coachella Valley."
Desert Water Agency is a public, non-profit agency and a State Water Contractor, serving a 325- square-mile area, including parts of Cathedral City, outlying county areas, Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs. An elected five-member board of directors sets policy and represents the ratepayers. For more information, please visit www.dwa.org.
The Coachella Valley Water District is a public, non-profit agency and a State Water Contractor, serving a 1,000-square mile area. An elected five-member board of directors sets policy and represents the ratepayers. The district provides domestic and irrigation water, agricultural drainage, wastewater treatment and reclamation services, regional storm water protection, groundwater management and water conservation. For more information, please visit www.cvwd.org.
For more information, please contact:
DWA Public Information Officer Katie Ruark at (760) 323-4971 ext. 184, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CVWD Director, Communication & Legislation Heather Engel at (760) 398-2651 ext. 2353, email@example.com.
News Release Contacts
Heather Engel, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ext. 2353
Diane Carmony, email@example.com, Ext. 2315