Palm Springs, California, in the homelands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Photo: Joyce cory

Agua Caliente Band water case heads to Supreme Court for consideration

A water rights lawsuit being closely watched in Indian Country is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

In March, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians won a major decision confirming its right to groundwater on its reservation in southern California. But two water districts are now asking the Supreme Court to take on the case.

The Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District filed their petition on Wednesday. The tribe now has until August 7 to respond, according to Docket No. 17-40.

“Everybody’s going to be fighting for their piece of the pie. And we don’t need to do that," John Powell, Jr., the president CVWD’s board, told The Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Oral Arguments in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla v. Coachella Valley Water District October 18, 2016

The Supreme Court only accepts a small percentage of petitions so the water districts are facing long odds. But other tribes are closely watching the case because a negative decision could hinder their own water efforts.

“There are a lot of tribes out there trying to figure out how to assert their water rights and kind of just waiting in line to do so. So there’s a big backlog,” attorney David Cordalis told the paper. “It’s hard to get your water rights quantified and decreed.”

While the Supreme Court process continues, the tribe is moving forward with the second phase of the lawsuit --getting its rights quantified. The tribe is also asserting a right to a certain quality of water, an issue that has not yet been decided.

Read More on the Story:
Do tribes have special groundwater rights? Water agencies appeal to Supreme Court in landmark case (The Palm Springs Desert Sun 7/6)

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District (March 7, 2017)

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