There are many questions about the issue of water rights, and the economic future of the Imperial Valley. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have a question you'd like to ask, click here.
- What is the Imperial Group?
- How were "water rights" created?
- Why is the water linked to the land?
- What is the role of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID)?
- Does the IID agree that it is - by law - a trustee of the water rights for the agricultural landowners?
- Does the IID control the allocation of water within Imperial County?
- Who are the agricultural landowners that are involved in the water issue?
- Why have Imperial Valley agricultural landowners filed a lawsuit?
- If the lawsuit initiated by the agricultural landowners is ruled in their favor, what would happen?
- What would be done with the money?
- Is it fair for the agricultural landowners to be given that money?
- How can we be certain the community would benefit?
- Why are the agricultural landowners willing to commit a portion of the funds for the public good?
- What will happen if there is conservation of the water?
- Do the agricultural landowners have a vision for the Imperial Valley?
- What is the status of legal actions that have been taken to date?
The Imperial Group is an informal group of local agricultural landowners who want to protect the water rights in the Imperial Valley. They want to prevent agricultural landowners from incurring any liability in connection with any water transfers. They also want to optimize the value of water rights for the benefit of the agricultural landowners and the overall community. And they want to help formulate a fair water solution for the Imperial Valley.
Individual members of the Imperial Group are also members of other Imperial Valley organizations, such as the Farm Bureau, Western Growers, and the Imperial Valley Water Users Association.
"The Law of the River" defines the water rights. A priority system has been established allowing the "first on" to be the "first served." The long history of Imperial Valley agriculture gives it a high priority for Colorado River water.
The potential for agricultural development goes back to the 1850s. Since then, canals and aqueducts were built to bring Colorado River water to the valley. Agricultural landowners have paid for much of this irrigation infrastructure.
Desert land, by itself, has little value. But add water and it becomes valuable agricultural property.
The cost of land has been based on its value when water is available to support agriculture. Take away the water, and you take away the value of the land.
It's like buying a residentially zoned lot on which to build a house. The government can't say to you, "We've changed our minds and that land is now only usable for open space." That would eliminate the value of the land. To do so, the government would have to compensate the property owner.
The IID is a community-owned utility and a California irrigation district, not a county water district, such as the Coachella Valley Water District. It is entrusted to manage the water that flows through the valley, according to the water rights created by agricultural landowners.
However, the majority of IID's revenue (86%) comes from the sale of electric power to customers in the Imperial Valley.
Yes. In its filings in federal and state courts, the IID routinely states that it holds the water rights in trust, and references a Supreme Court decision that makes it clear that the landowners are the beneficiaries of the trust.
No. The allocation of water is based on the California Irrigation District Act that proclaims all lands are to receive water on an equitably apportioned basis.
The IID functions as an "intermediary" between the federal government that delivers the water and, based on agreements, the users of the water.
By definition, virtually every agricultural landowner in the Imperial Valley is affected. About 100 agricultural landowners have expressed their concern about the future of water availability in the valley, and support the actions that have been taken on behalf of the agricultural landowners.
They have established an informal organization called the Imperial Group.
The landowners' suit challenges the right of the IID to enter into an agreement regarding water transfer, without participation by the landowners, since they hold the water rights.
However, at the same time, the agricultural landowners say that the IID is not acting in the landowners' best interest. As a result, the IID's actions are putting the value of the agricultural landowners' property in jeopardy.
There are many possible outcomes. But whatever benefit is given to the agricultural landowners who have initiated the action, it will benefit all agricultural landowners in the Imperial Valley. Under the landowners' plan, there would also be significant benefits to the community.
The agricultural landowners want a guarantee that the monetary benefits of any transfer of water will be distributed to the lands that are entitled to the water.
Under California law, a landowner who is entitled to use water and conserves some of that water is entitled to all the benefits of that conservation.
In addition to supporting agriculture in the valley, the funds would be used for many other uses. A portion of the money would be committed to one or more responsible public foundations to provide grants to community organizations to support their programs.
Funds would also be committed to studying new irrigation systems to reduce the amount of water needed to sustain the valley's agriculture.
A third use would be to explore opportunities for the diversification of the Imperial Valley's economy.
Yes, because the agricultural landowners would be the ones responsible for conserving the water and maintaining the valley's agricultural productivity.
They have also borne the cost of much of the irrigation infrastructure.
The Imperial Group wants to provide support to one or more local public charitable foundations so there is full accountability for the allocation and use of funds for the good of the community. Instead of having a government agency (the IID) administer such funds, the Imperial Group believes that charitable foundations would provide more benefit to the community, since they are subject to greater oversight by the publics they serve.
The agricultural landowners are members of the Imperial Valley community. Programs that benefit community organizations ultimately benefit everyone who lives and works in the Imperial Valley.
We believe that farmer-administered conservation will have no negative impact on the economic health of the valley. On the contrary, conservation, coupled with sound farming and business practices, will benefit the valley.
Yes. Their vision is the creation of opportunities for everyone in the Valley. Those opportunities include jobs, education, and economic health and stability.
This vision is achievable. But to do so, we must all work together.
The various lawsuits filed by the IID, the landowners and others have been joined together under one title, "In re: QSA Cases." The cases are being handled by a single judge: Judge Roland Candee of the Sacramento County Superior Court.
For additional details on the court web site: click here. Click here for a partial list of participating agricultural landowners.