PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The battle over the valley's water could cost you big time. Earlier this month, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians sued the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District. At its latest meeting, the DWA released a memo about the potential costs if the tribe wins the suit. It would mean the water supplier to much of the west valley would need to find supplemental resources to fill the need. Ultimately, prompting the company to raise rates for customers. The memo estimates customers could see their bills rise by 71% to 623%. "You're not paying for the water, you're paying for the delivery of the water, the storage, the pipes, the pumps and the maintenance, that's what you pay for," said Craig Ewing, a board member of the Desert Water Agency. "The water is yours, and the Tribe's lawsuit is to make the water theirs."
The lawsuit alleges a few things. First, it asks for an injunction enjoining CVWD and DWA from withdrawing groundwater from the Upper Whitewater and Garnet Hill sub-basins of the Coachella Valley Groundwater Basin underlying the Coachella Valley and the Tribe's reservation. The tribe also alleges the companies are not doing enough to protect the water supply. The suit says the companies have polluted the groundwater in the aquifer by introducing Colorado River water to it. "It's water that is consumed and used by 33 million people in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada," said Ewing. "It meets the federal safe drinking standard. That's the water they're talking about. So, we have trouble understanding where they come up with this assertion that there's some kind of pollution."
The tribe's website responds with this statement:
"These are scare tactics by the water agencies designed to hide the fact
that they have mismanaged the Valley's water for so long. This is not about money, it is about ending the mismanagement of our water resources and protecting it for generations of Coachella Valley residents to come."
Ewing says he's still unsure what the tribe will do with the water if it wins the lawsuit. He's also unsure where the water will come from for DWA's customers. According to a copy of the memo from DWA's website, customers currently pay $1.29 per 100 cubic feet of water. If the company needs to find alternate sources, it estimates it could cost customers between $2.21 to $9.33.
The possible rate hike has the Desert Car Wash extremely concerned. For the last 68 yearts, it's washed nearly 100 cars everyday. The International Car Wash Association estimates it takes about 45 gallons of water to clean each car. "The water is constantly running, all day long," said manager Debbie Crawford.
If the rates rise, the car wash is worried about how to sustain its business.
"We can't afford to increase because it's going to bring our numbers down,." said Crawford. "Bottom line, we're going to lose customers if we keep raising our prices."