The Antelope Valley groundwater adjudication case is the current poster child for how painfully long and expensive groundwater adjudications can be. The enormous case involves a multitude of public agencies, farmers, cities, the federal government, and landowners, both large and small, some of whom pump water, but most who don’t but still hold groundwater rights that cannot be dismissed or ignored. It has been winding its way through the court system for 15 years, with over 9,000 docket entries so far and more than a hundred lawyers listed on the case.
On November 20, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water held an informational hearing on groundwater adjudications titled, “Resolving Disputes Regarding Groundwater Rights: Why Does It Take So Long and What Might Be Done to Accelerate the Process?” In part 1 of coverage from the hearing, Justice Ronald Robie gave an overview of the adjudication process. In this portion of coverage of the hearing, attorney Eric Garner, managing partner with the law firm Best, Best, & Krieger LLP, gave an overview of how the case has progressed to date.
Eric Garner, managing partner of Best, Best, & Krieger, LLP
Mr. Garner began by noting that he is not appearing on behalf of any client today, and the views he will be expressing are his own, based on his several decades of experience in groundwater adjudications.
“Prior to this year, the law of California groundwater was pretty much pump until a judge tells you not to and generally the only way to limit pumping in a groundwater basin was to sue everyone and have an adjudication, which is simply litigation that involves everyone who has a claim to water in a groundwater basin, and get a resolution of that case,” he said.