SLRIWA History

The Water

Because of the diversion of 90% of the San Luis Rey River for almost 50 years, the Rincon Band’s wells were drying up. Thus, Patricia Duro from the Rincon Band, went to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Riverside in 1968 and approached attorney Robert Pelcyger (Bob). This led to litigation and the beginning of the San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights lawsuit.

The San Luis Rey River Basin of northern San Diego County is home to the reservations of five Indian bands: La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, Rincon, and San Pasqual.
Henry Rodriguez of the La Jolla Band remembers when the basin was lush. "I look back to what it was like when I was young, around eight or nine years old. It was full of vegetation, clean water and wildlife. Everything looked green. There were dry years, we know that, but there was enough to give us a good life."
All that changed, however, when settlers in the region used state law and federal authority to divert the waters of the San Luis Rey River into the Escondido Canal. From the 1890s to early 1900s, settlers secured water rights through federal legislation and agreements. The Escondido Canal diverted enough water to serve more than 67,000 people each year in the growing non-Indian communities of Escondido and Vista.
Since the diversion of San Luis Rey River water, the basin has dried up. For more than 75 years, the Indian Bands have lived with scarce water supplies and all the economic hardships caused by lack of water.

The San Luis Rey History When the Canal was built

“I remember back in the 1960s at Rincon when there was a severe drought. The wells were low; the trees were dying and you didn’t even see any weeds around. It was so bad that our cattle were eating the paper off of cans. Back then, we were an agricultural and farming-based economy; we had orange groves and lemon groves, and we raised squash and peanuts.”

- Bo Mazzetti

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phone: +1 (760) 742-1903
San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority
PO Box 428
Pauma Valley, CA 92061