OMLO Partner W. Keith Lemieux was recently quoted by the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek in articles about an ongoing battle over water rights and its effect on the California desert town of Trona. Keith currently represents the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, which Trona relies on for groundwater.
In Thomas Curwen’s Los Angeles Times article “Water War Threatens Desert Community Amid California Drought,” Keith pointed to data the authority has reviewed and illustrated the pressing nature of the issue.
The Indian Wells Valley aquifer is among the most studied in California, and its groundwater authority researched more than 100 years of data. The conclusion could not be ignored, said Keith Lemieux, an attorney representing the authority.
The amount of water flowing into the valley’s underground basin is 7,650 acre-feet per year. Annual usage is about 28,000 acre-feet. Like an overdrawn bank account, the valley was in debt, and if nothing was done, Lemieux said, “we would be out of water in 50 years.”
In the Newsweek article, “California Mojave Desert Town of 1,700 People Could Be Left Dry in Water War,” by Fatma Khaled, Keith shed additional light on the actions being taken by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to help sustain the water supply, including ordering Searles Valley Minerals and Mojave Pistachios, two companies using a large amount of groundwater, to pay a replenishment fee.
The water allocation will cost around $50 million and the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority ordered Searles Valley Minerals and Mojave Pistachios to pay around $25 million worth of water costs to protect the water in the desert, Keith Lemieux, an attorney representing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, told Newsweek.
He also said that the authority is trying to sustain the groundwater by ordering these charges and a water conveyance system into the valley, which is essentially a pipeline from another location that will pump water in.
“The groundwater authority is charged with one mission, and that is making sure the basin is sustainable, that the same amount of water coming out of the basin is equal to water going into it,” he said.
For more of Keith’s commentary on this ongoing water rights issue, continue reading the articles below.