Environmental Law & Policy Alerts – Update from Somach Simmons & Dunn

July 20, 2020

Court of Appeal Holds That Imperial Irrigation District Landowners Only Have a Right to Water Service and Not an Individual Appurtenant Right to District Held Water Rights

Imperial Irrigation District (“IID” or “District”), which provides the only source of fresh water to California’s Imperial Valley, implemented an “equitable distribution plan” (EDP) to allocate its water entitlement amongst its users.  A local farmer, Abatti, challenged IID’s EDP, asserting that it unlawfully and inequitably stripped him of his water rights that entitled him to receive a certain quantity of water from the District.  Taking a narrow view of the District’s discretion and purposes, the Imperial Superior Court ruled in favor of Abatti, determining that IID abused its discretion in apportioning and allocating its water under the EDP, and that the farmers in IID own the equitable and beneficial interest in the District’s water rights, which is appurtenant to their land, while the District holds mere legal title to its water rights.  On appeal, the court held that the District’s water allocation methodology in the EDP was reasonable and not an abuse of discretion, and that Abatti and the other farmers in IID only hold an interest in, or right to, water service. … Read More Written by Alyson E. Ackerman