The U.S Supreme Court denied a petition to hear a case involving whether, when, and to what extent the federal reserved right doctrine recognized in Winters v. United States pre-empts state-law regulation of groundwater.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s opinion, holding in favor of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the United States, which declared that the United States impliedly reserved appurtenant water sources, including groundwater, when it created the Tribe’s reservation in California’s arid Coachella Valley. The request for relief was filed by the Tribe and the United States against water agencies.
Winters declares that federal reserved water rights are directly applicable to Indian reservations. The Ninth Circuit panel held that the Winters doctrine does not distinguish between surface water and groundwater.