Information About Agua Caliente Lawsuit

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians filed a lawsuit on May 14, 2013 against Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency seeking to take away the public’s water use rights and prevent the agencies from delivering water to their customers. On July 5, 2017, CVWD and DWA filed petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to review the case. On Aug. 7, 2017, three amicus briefs were filed that support the water agencies. CVWD is providing the following documents to help educate customers about this important issue.

The United States Supreme Court announced on November 27, 2017 it will not review a court decision in a lawsuit that the Agua Caliente Tribe filed against Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA) in 2013 seeking unprecedented rights to groundwater, superseding all other water users.  The decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, granting superior rights to groundwater to the Tribe will remain in effect.

A federal court announced on April 19, 2019 that the Agua Caliente Tribe was not harmed because it has always had access to as much high-quality water as it needs. The judge ruled that the Tribe does not have standing, the right to pursue a lawsuit against the local public water agencies, CVWD and DWA. The only claim remaining in the Tribe’s lawsuit is the “narrow issue” of whether the Tribe has an ownership interest in storage space for groundwater under its reservation. Under the court’s decision, the agencies’ recharge operations are free to continue providing critical water supply. Accordingly, the court wrote, the Tribe did not have standing because “there is no evidence that the Tribe will not be able to access sufficient water to fulfill any particular purpose, much less the purposes of the reservation.”

The agencies and tribe are continuing to work through outstanding issues.  The District will continue to defend the rights of all of our customers and stakeholders against costly litigation. 

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