Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Achieves a Significant Victory in Securing a Strong Water Future


Beautiful Andreas Canyon oasis, within the Indian Canyons Tribal
For decades, water agencies in the Coachella Valley have depleted the underground aquifer and replenished the pristine aquifer water with degraded Colorado River water.  Frustrated with these practices, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians filed a lawsuit in 2013 against the water agencies asserting an ownership interest in the water and challenging the water management methods.  NARF, along with Kilpatrick Townsend law firm, represented the tribe in its quest to secure its right to water and its role in ensuring a sustainable water future. In 2015, a California federal district court ruled in the tribe’s favor that the tribe’s federal reserved water rights did include the groundwater under the reservation lands.  The water agencies appealed the decision.

This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that upheld the district court’s 2015 ruling that the tribe “has a reserved right to groundwater underlying its reservation as a result of the purpose for which the reservation was established.”   This ruling is a significant victory for the tribe and the Coachella Valley, where the tribe and its ancestors have lived since time immemorial.  NARF Executive Director John Echohawk stated, “We know that Indian tribes need to be able to count on having safe and reliable water supplies in order to successfully plan for their future generations’ ability to live healthy and successful lives, build economies, and continue cultural practices.”
Congratulations to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in securing its right to clean water and sustainable water management!
See the full press release from NARF here.
See the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ press release on its victory, at the tribe’s Facebook page
See the court’s opinion and related briefs in the case on the Turtle Talk blog.