City officials in Carlsbad have been on the hunt for small-scale water sources to meet demands and to supplement the existing supply.
On December 5, the City of Carlsbad came one step closer to achieving their goal when city officials filed a lawsuit against the California State Water Resources Control Board over rights to "percolating groundwater" found inside city limits.
The city wants the water without having to acquire permits. The California State Water Resources Control Board, known as “the water board,” thinks otherwise.
“The water underlying the Property is percolating groundwater, and thus may, among other things, extract and divert such groundwater without obtaining a permit or license from the Water Board. [If] the water underlying the Property is a subterranean stream flowing through known and definite channels, they may, among other things, extract and divert such water without obtaining a permit or license from the Water Board because Plaintiffs have pre-1914 Water Rights with respect to the Property, in whole or in part,” reads the city’s argument.
In the past, Carlsbad has used groundwater as a partial source, but since 1993 they have mainly relied on purchasing imported water from the San Diego County Water Authority and utilizing several sources of recycled water.
For years, the city has tried to find a way around purchasing water from the state water board, which controls the appropriation of surface water and sets water rates. To do so, they have been on the lookout for small-scale water sources to meet demands and supplement the existing supply.
In 2010, the City of Carlsbad released an Urban Water Management Plan that cited the “cost-effectiveness of utilizing groundwater.” The study concluded “that while the treatment and delivery of groundwater is feasible, it is not cost-effective.”
But as water rates increased, the argument over cost-effectiveness changed. Since the time of the study, the costs of importing water have significantly increased, prompting the city to change its approach. City officials now believe they must fight to keep water rates from increasing even more.
The suit states that, “The City has certain Water Rights stemming from their ownership of and/or interests in certain real property in the City of Oceanside, County of San Diego, State of California. They desire to use, develop, market and/or monetize their Water Rights for the benefit, health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City and the District….
"Plaintiffs seek preliminary and injunctive relief against the Water Board and the other Defendants enjoining them and their respective board members, principals, agents, employees, affiliates, representatives, contractors, subcontractors and vendors from interfering with Plaintiffs' Water Rights by, among other things, (a) wrongfully asserting that the water underlying the Property is a subterranean stream, rather than percolating groundwater, (b) wrongfully asserting that Plaintiffs lack pre-1914 Water Rights with respect to the Property, in whole or in part, if and to the extent the water underlying the Property is determined to be a subterranean stream flowing through known and definite channels; and (c) taking any steps to require that Plaintiffs obtain a permit or license prior to, among other things, extracting or diverting water from the Property.”
Furthermore, the City of Carlsbad and the Carlsbad Municipal Water District “have suffered and will suffer irreparable harm unless the Defendants' assertions and conduct clouding the title to Plaintiffs' Water Rights are restrained and enjoined."