It's ALL about the WATER!  



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The Battle for our Water




The Desert Water Agency (DWA) is acting like they OWN our Mission Creek aquifer and they don't even pump from it!


In 2015, as a result of backroom lobbying efforts the Desert Water Agency (DWA) was given by the State Water Control board, and they accepted, the status of Exclusive Ground Water Sustainability Agency (GSA) over the service area of MSWD. The DWA board had to vote to receive that status and when that meeting occurred MSWD had our General Manager, our Board President, and the DHS City Manager and Mayor speak in opposition.  We wanted DWA to meet with us and to talk it over. They ignored our request and accepted the role of GSA over MSWD.  We then filed our lawsuit and proceeded to still "work things out" with DWA.  I was part of a mediation team that met with DWA for two solid days with a retired Federal Judge going between us.  The Judge concluded we were far apart.  Next, DWA sought to have our lawsuit dismissed but the ruling was MSWD has a case and we are going to court. 


DWA only has two possible arguments as to why they should be the GSA over our aquifer: 1)"Mom said we could!"  I.e. the State Water Control board unknowingly gave them that authority without being aware of the impact to MSWD. 2) We can manage the aquifer better!  Yet, MSWD has been managing this aquifer successfully for 65 years, long before DWA came into existence. Not to mention that DWA does not even pump from it.  We will get our day in court to prove to a jury that these two arguments just don't hold up.


What follows is a detailed historical timeline of what has been going on.


• MSWD (formerly Desert Hot Springs County Water District) was created in 1953, and has successfully and sustainably managed groundwater for our community for approximately 65 years.

• In 1960 MSWD, Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and the Palm Springs Water Company commissioned an engineering study to determine how best to bring supplemental water to the Valley from the new State Water Project.

• Desert Water Agency (DWA) was created to import State Water Project water to the Coachella Valley, without interfering or competing with MSWD’s or CVWD’s retail service.

• At the time DWA was created, MSWD annexed itself into DWA for limited water importation purposes, but MSWD reserved its statutory water management powers as a County Water District.

• DWA’s enabling legislation (the law that created DWA) makes clear that MSWD would not lose any of its statutory powers by allowing DWA to extend its boundaries to include MSWD, which was required to authorize DWA to impose and collect taxes and assessments to recoup the cost of imported water.

• MSWD receives and our rate payers pay for the supplemental water imported by DWA, through a replenishment assessment (pump tax) imposed by DWA.


SECTION 49: The …annexation…to this agency, of the corporate area of any…public agency shall not…impair the powers of any such…public agency…

This language ensured MSWD that its powers would not be impaired simply because MSWD annexed itself into DWA’s boundaries solely for water importation purposes.


Although MSWD created DWA to import water:

• Between 1961 and 2003, DWA did not deliver supplemental water to the Mission Creek sub-basin, which is the primary sub-basin this community currently relies on for water. In 2003, MSWD filed a lawsuit against DWA to force DWA to deliver water to Mission Creek and Garnet Hill Sub-Basins, to replenish the groundwater MSWD relies on for retail service.

• In 2004, MSWD, DWA and CVWD settled the lawsuit, by committing to deliver supplemental water to Mission Creek and Garnet Hill Sub-Basins.

• DWA, CVWD and MSWD also agreed to jointly develop a water management plan for Mission Creek and Garnet Hill sub-basins.

The Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan

• Pursuant to the 2004 Settlement, MSWD, DWA and CVWD spent years and significant sums developing a Water Management Plan to sustainably manage groundwater in the Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Sub-Basins.

• The Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan was adopted in 2013 by the Boards of all three agencies.

• By 2014, the parties settled their lawsuit, had jointly developed a water management plan and were working together regarding management of our water.

A New California Water Law (the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act “SGMA”) Became Effective January 1, 2015

• Under SGMA local agencies can become groundwater sustainability agencies (“GSA”) within their service areas with power to determine when and where water will be produced.

• SGMA listed DWA as the exclusive GSA within its “statutory boundaries”.

• It is unlikely legislators knew DWA would interpret SGMA in a manner that involved DWA serving as the sustainability agency both within its service area in the Palm Springs community and also attempting to take control over groundwater management within MSWD’s boundaries in the greater Desert Hot Springs area.


• DWA scheduled a hearing for Nov 13, 2015 to consider electing itself the sustainability agency over its service area and MSWD’s service area.

• Prior to the hearing, MSWD’s Board President sent DWA a letter asking that DWA hold off on unilaterally electing itself as the sustainability agency over MSWD’s area until the two agencies met to discuss the proposed action.

• MSWD’s Board President, General Manager, Attorneys and Desert Hot Springs’ City Manager attended DWA’s hearing and urged DWA to meet with MSWD and DHS representatives before taking action to become the exclusive GSA over MSWD’s service area.

• By a split vote, DWA’s board rejected the MSWD/DHS request for a meeting, and unilaterally elected DWA as exclusive GSA over MSWD’s service area, including areas within MSWD boundaries but not within DWA.

• MSWD had 90 days to then file its writ of mandate action, which it did, but held off on serving until the parties were able to meet.

• MSWD and DWA met for months and attempted to negotiate a resolution to their dispute.

• In late 2017, MSWD and DWA again met to discuss resolution, but agreement could not be reached.


• To continue to manage groundwater within its boundaries, as it has done for 65 years.

• This will allow the two competing retail agencies to manage groundwater within their respective service areas, in cooperation with the other Valley water purveyors, as they have done for decades.


• MSWD has filed a lawsuit, which the court has ruled will proceed to trial.

• MSWD has met with state agencies seeking clarification that MSWD should be the GSA within its service area.


• If DWA’s tactics are not stopped, they will have the power to decide where and when development can occur in the community served by Mission Springs Water District (i.e. the greater Desert Hot Springs area).

• This is perhaps the most important fight in which this community has ever been involved.

• We are fighting for this community to maintain control over its water and its destiny.


Please feel free to email me any questions you might have and I'll reply here.