The Settlement Act

In 1984, Congressman Ron Packard (CA-R), representative of the 43rd district, became the primary sponsor of the negotiations between the parties, and in 1988 the San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights Settlement Act (Settlement Act) was passed and the San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority (SLRIWA) was formed.

The Settlement Act authorized and directed the Secretary of the Interior to arrange for the development of 16,000 acre-feet of supplemental water for the use and benefit of the five Bands, Escondido, and Vista. Congress also authorized the appropriation of $30 million for use by the SLRIWA and for economic development of the reservations. The money was appropriated and deposited in an interest bearing Treasury account in 1990.

Once the water was identified in 2003, the Bands had to negotiate the terms and conditions to transport it from the Colorado River to Northern San Diego County. To do this, the Settlement Act was composed of three agreements between the Bands, the city of Escondido, the Vista Irrigation District (VID), the Coachella Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), and the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA). They are the following:

  • Allocation Agreement — the allocation of water saved by the lining of the All-American and Coachella Canals would be divided as follows:
    • The first 16,000 acre-feet would be received by the San Luis Rey Settlement Parties annually
    • The remaining saved water, approximately 77,000 acre-ft/year, would be allocated to (SDCWA).
  • Water Delivery Agreement — Transfer of the conserved Colorado River water from Lake Havasu, located on the border between California and Arizona, to northern San Diego County would be completed by MWD.
  • Water Conveyance Agreement — Transfer of the settlement water from northern San Diego County to the San Luis Rey Settlement Parties would be completed by SDCWA. The Indian Bands may sell any water not needed to Escondido and Vista.

Under this agreement, Escondido and Vista would be provided with the same water they would have gotten from MWD and SDCWA, but had to pay the Bands for that water instead, which would add a source of a continuous income for the Bands.

Eventually the dispute with the United States government required a compromise carefully crafted by Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor as an amendment to the 1988 Settlement Act. The amendment was included as Section 3605 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act enacted in December of 2016. The agreement was signed after the Bands agreed not to hold the government responsible for intervening with Escondido, Vista, SLRIWA, and the Bands regarding local water or other items within the implementation agreement.

Once the Federal District Court and FERC approved the accompanying settlement documents and terminated the proceedings in May 2017, the cases were finally closed and the settlement took effect.

Important Settlement Features

  • When the settlement became effective, the Indian Water Authority received compensation for its future operations and economic development of the five reservations from the funds previously appropriated by Congress and from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for the supplemental water it received before the settlement took effect in 2017.
  • The five Bands, Escondido, and Vista have rights to share and use both San Luis Rey water and the supplemental water imported from the Colorado River on the Bands’ reservations and Escondido and Vista’s service areas pursuant to the terms of the settlement.
  • Escondido and Vista continue to be responsible for operating, maintaining, repairing and replacing the facilities of the local water system.
  • Through a one-for-one exchange and/or cash, the Bands compensate Escondido and Vista for additional San Luis Rey water provided for use on their reservations.
  • The Bands pay the costs associated with conveying the 16,000 acre-feet of supplemental water from the Colorado River to northern San Diego County.
  • Escondido and Vista pay the Bands for the supplemental water delivered to them what they would otherwise pay the San Diego County Water Authority. The amount of those payments is expected to increase as the price of imported water in Southern California continues to rise.
  • The SLRIWA makes periodic allocations of money to the Bands for economic development.

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