Judge Tells Fontana Water To Cease Its Overdrafting

(February 25) In a tentative ruling that could go into effect as early as next week, the Fontana Water Company has been enjoined from any further pumping of water from the Rialto-Colton groundwater basin beyond its established water rights there.
According to allegations in a 2013 lawsuit filed by the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, the West Valley Water District, and the cities of Colton and Rialto, the Fontana Water Company, at the direction of its parent company, the San Gabriel Valley Water Company, has since 2005 extracted nearly three times its base water pumping allotment established as part of a water rights adjudication regime put into place 54 years ago. That lawsuit was followed with another in 2014, filed by the cities of Colton and Rialto and the West Valley Water District, essentially reiterating the charge that the Fontana Water Company is utilizing more water from the basin than it is entitled to.
Three weeks ago, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Bryan Foster granted the cities of Colton and Rialto a preliminary injunction against Fontana Water/San Gabriel Valley Water Co., instructing them to stay within their legal pumping limits in the basin.
As of this week, the ruling was not being enforced. It will go into effect as soon as Foster’s ruling is put into a formal order. At that point, Fontana Water will need to end its pumping immediately, as it has already exceeded its water allotment for the operational year running through September 30.
The court’s ruling will allow all parties to the 1961 decree to continue to pump groundwater under that judgment until the current litigation about the Rialto-Colton Basin is completed.
Fontana Water will have the option of purchasing water from the state water project, which conveys water from Northern California to Southern California by means of the California Aqueduct, subject to availability and a price that has fluctuated in recent years from $500 to $1,200 per acre foot. An acre-foot is the amount of water that will cover an acre to a depth of one foot, that is 43,560 cubic feet or 325,853.4 gallons, which is typically the amount of water consumed by a household of four people in one year.
In the West Valley Water District, which has declared a Stage II Drought Alert and requested that its customers voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 percent, district general manager Anthony “Butch” Araiza hailed the court’s decision.
“Judge Foster’s ruling confirms that everybody, even Fontana Water Company, must play by the same rules, especially during a historic drought,” said Araiza. “Nobody is exempt from the drought and Fontana Water Company can no longer take everyone else’s water in violation of established water rights agreements.”
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Doug Headrick said, “As supplemental water supplies from the State Water Project are becoming more limited, it is essential that we preserve our local water supplies. The water rights judgments and agreements established in the 1960s were designed to maintain balance in our groundwater basins, even during times of shortage like we are facing today. We applaud the court and the cities of Colton, Rialto and West Valley for calling Fontana Water Company to task to do their part.”

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