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Since the late 1800s, the San Luis Rey River Basin of northern San Diego County has been home to the reservations of five Indian bands: La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, Rincon and San Pasqual Bands of Mission Indians.
History Photo

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.