9th Circuit opinion on federal reserved right to groundwater

Irrigated Fields

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Native Americans and others claiming federal reserved water rights have a right to groundwater under their lands, upending almost a century of water rights practice (see the Opinion which is also embedded below, and the 1908 case, Winters v. United States).

In November 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal by California water agencies in the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ landmark lawsuit asserting rights to groundwater beneath the Tribe’s reservation.  The case goes back to the federal district court for determination of the quantity and quality of groundwater to which the Tribe has a claim, which may prove to be an expensive legal fight.

Legal documents concerning this case are available at the Coachella Valley Water District’s website.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.western-water.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/15-55896_FederalReserved-to-Groundwate.pdf”]


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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