City of Riverside Sues State to Block 24% Water-Reduction Order

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The city of Riverside has its own supply of water, thank you very much, and doesn’t see why it should be subject to a 24% cut in water usage mandated by the state.

The city asked the state nicely earlier in the year to include it in a program that lets Northern California entities get away with just 4% cuts because they are taking their water from surface sources, like rivers that are going to dump their contents in the sea if not snatched.

That didn’t happen. Riverside gets its water from underground, not the surface, and that’s a critical difference to the state. So city officials filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court to stop the State Water Resources Control Board from imposing its will on them.

“We have our own wells and our own water resources,” Riverside Public Utilities spokesperson Heather Raymond told the Los Angeles Times. “No matter how much we save it has zero effect on the state water supply.”

Riverside gets its water from groundwater basins it controls and has a four-year supply on hand. That’s the minimum necessary to be included in the 4% tier. Over the years, the city has drilled wells, captured storm water, invested in a water treatment plant and spent millions on a recycled water infrastructure, Riverside Public Utilities Deputy General Manager Kevin Milligan told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The city says it hasn’t imported water from the Colorado River or the State Water Project since 2008. According to the Courthouse News Service, the city’s complaint says, “(A)ny water that Riverside does not extract will sit in the basin, and cannot be extracted or used by others. Riverside is truly ‘water independent.’ ”

In its complaint, Riverside says it asked the state why a groundwater-sufficient entity couldn’t get a break and was told, “It would simply be too difficult to include groundwater in the 4% tier, but provided no evidence why including groundwater suppliers would be any more difficult than including surface water suppliers. No other reason was giving for listening to one class of water suppliers, but ignoring the other class of water suppliers.”

KPCC said Riverside’s lawsuit was the largest objection registered to date against the state’s water policy. Water districts are just now beginning to implement government directives which aim to implement Governor Jerry Brown’s order that water usage be cut 25% among statewide nonagricultural users. The cuts range between 8% and 36%, compared to comparable time periods in 2013.

Riverside wants a temporary restraining order and injunction to avoid $10,000-a-day fines for noncompliance with an emergency order.

–Ken Broder 


To Learn More:

City Sues State over Water-Saving Drought Rules (by Janet Zimmerman, Riverside Press-Enterprise)

California Drought: City of Riverside Sues over Water Restrictions (by Molly Peterson, KPCC)

Riverside, Calif., Fights Governor Brown's Water-Reduction Order (by Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News Service)

Riverside Sues State over Demand For 28% Cut in Water Use (by Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times)

Appeals Court Cans Key Part of State’s Water Conservation Plan—High Prices for Big Users (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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