"A Native American tribe has a legal right to groundwater in Southern California's arid Coachella Valley, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled yesterday.
When the United States established a reservation for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, it implicitly created a right to tap the water below, wrote Judge Charles Tallman for the three-judge panel.
The ruling marks the first controlling opinion that the federal "reserved rights" doctrine applies to groundwater. The doctrine says that the United States intended to reserve water for tribes when it established reservations to the extent necessary to accomplish the purpose of the reservation."