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Desert Hot Springs

Desert Water Agency is a groundwater management agency and State Water Contractor for the Desert Hot Springs area (in addition to Palm Springs, parts of Cathedral City and some unincorporated areas). Mission Springs Water District provides water service to many customers in Desert Hot Springs by pumping the water out of the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin. DWA and Coachella Valley Water District (the region's other State Water Contractor) put water back into the basin - this is something that MSWD does not have the ability or contracts to do. Since the 1960s, we've worked to secure future water supplies for the Desert Hot Springs community and have coordinated with MSWD to deliver water. In fact, we've delivered about 35% more water than we have been contracted to.

Mission Creek water deliveries

These efforts are funded by taxes and also sustainability fees that we charge when water is pumped out of the aquifer. Desert Water Agency has a publicly elected Board of Directors and all five members are directly accountable to the people of Desert Hot Springs through elections held in even-numbered years. The Board of Directors helps guide the Agency and set policy.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act became state law in 2015. The law essentially requires that groundwater basins be sustainable. It also empowers local agencies, like Desert Water Agency, to act as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, which are responsible for ensuring sustainability within groundwater basins. Mission Springs Water District is opposed to Desert Water Agency's position as the GSA in the Mission Creek basin. Click here to learn more about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. 

FAQs

Click on each question to see the answer.

Why does Desert Water Agency want to manage water in Desert Hot Springs?

Mission Springs Water District requested to be annexed into Desert Water Agency's boundaries in the early 1960s. MSWD adopted a resolution in support of this and the people in Desert Hot Springs voted to approve it as well. In 1962, the DWA boundaries were expanded to cover Desert Hot Springs. This was a major step in ensuring the community's water sustainability.

It is DWA's responsibility to manage the groundwater in the Desert Hot Springs area. The community votes in DWA elections and the people of Desert Hot Springs pay taxes that fund State Water Project infrastructure. Through their water rates to MSWD, DHS residents pay for water that DWA delivers to the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin. Desert Water Agency paid for, operates and maintains the facilities where the imported water is delivered.

Desert Water Agency, Mission Springs Water District and Coachella Valley Water District developed a 2013 Water Management Plan that is the basis for the plan required by the State of California's new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The agencies meet regularly to discuss regional water management and the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin.

Why doesn't Mission Springs Water District manage water in Desert Hot Springs?

MSWD is an important partner in groundwater management in the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin. While they deliver water to residents and businesses, they do not have the contracts or investments to bring water into the community. They pump what DWA is able to bring in.

Why did Desert Water Agency tax for years without providing water?

DWA began delivering imported water once the Mission Springs Water District requested it in the early 2000s. Before that time, MSWD pumped naturally occurring water from the groundwater basin. Once imported water was delivered to replenish the groundwater basin, MSWD had to begin paying DWA a sustainability charge for each acre-foot of water pumped out.

The taxes paid prior to water being delivered funded the infrastructure investments needed to make imported water available when requested by MSWD.

MSWD sued DWA after DWA had already started delivering water to that area because MSWD did not want to pay the sustainability charge to pump water out.

To date, DWA has delivered about 35 percent more water to MSWD than we've been contractually obligated to deliver.

Why doesn't Desert Water Agency provide me with water?

Desert Water Agency replenishes (or refills) the groundwater basin that is beneath Desert Hot Springs. Mission Springs Water District is the water provider for most homes and businesses in Desert Hot Springs, though some are served by Coahella Valley Water District.

Why do I pay taxes to Desert Water Agency?

Your taxes go to help fund State Water Project infrastructure. There are reservoirs, canals, levees, pumping plants and pipes needed to get water from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range (where most of the rain and snow falls) to arid Southern California. We need to bring water into our desert to keep the groundwater basin sustainable.

Property owners within Desert Water Agency and Coachella Valley Water District boundaries pay these taxes.

Why can't Desert Water Agency and Mission Springs Water District work together?

DWA does work with MSWD and plans to continue working with them to manage the groundwater in the Desert Hot Springs area.

Groundwater management takes the efforts of many parties and the community.

Why is Mission Springs Water District suing Desert Water Agency?

MSWD sued DWA in 2016 after Desert Water Agency was designated by the Department of Water Resources as the exclusive Groundwater Sustainability Agency within its boundaries. MSWD also sued Coachella Valley Water District and the Department of Water Resources as part of this suit.

DWA, CVWD and MSWD all went through a mediation process. DWA and CVWD believed we had reached an agreement with MSWD, brokered by the mediator, but ultimately MSWD did not sign the proposed agreement.

Desert Water Agency is cooperatively managing the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin alongside CVWD and also plans to work with MSWD.

Is Desert Water Agency taking water rights from Desert Hot Springs or Mission Springs Water District?

No. DWA is a public agency that represents the community. DWA delivers imported water to the Mission Creek Spreading Basins that trickles back into the groundwater basin and helps achieve sustainability. This water is then pumped out and used by MSWD and private pumpers in Desert Hot Springs.

It is our job to bring water to this region to help ensure sustainability. We are working actively on projects to find additional water sources for the future growth in Desert Hot Springs.

To date, DWA has delivered about 35 percent more water to MSWD than we've been contractually obligated to deliver.

How is the imported water divided up in the Coachella Valley?

Currently, the way imported water is divided up depends on how much users in each subbasin use. This means that the water is going where it is needed. About 7% of the water imported in the Coachella Valley goes to Desert Hot Springs.

What is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act?

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) became California state law in 2015. It aims to ensure that groundwater basins throughout the state are not being over pumped or mismanaged.

Pursuant to SGMA, a Groundwater Sustainability Plan is required for the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin. In 2017, DWA, MSWD and CVWD submitted an alternative plan based on the existing 2013 Water Management Plan for state approval.

SGMA does not change groundwater rights.

Timeline

Click on each year to see the information.

  • 2018

    • MSWD, DWA and CVWD jointly submitted an alternative plan to manage the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

    • MSWD, DWA, CVWD and other agencies work to update Regional Water Management Plan for the Indio and Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin

    • DWA and CVWD have delivered approximately 152,000 AF to Mission Creek since the early 2000s, exceeding the amount agreed upon in the 2004 settlement agreement by about 35%
  • 2017

    • DWA, CVWD and MSWD all went through a mediation process. DWA and CVWD believed we had reached an agreement with MSWD, brokered by the mediator, but ultimately MSWD did not sign the proposed agreement.
  • 2016

    • MSWD sues DWA and CVWD regarding Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
  • 2015

    Sustainable Groundwater Management Act becomes law

    • DWA becomes Groundwater Sustainability Agency within its boundaries
  • 2014

    • MSWD, DWA, CVWD and other agencies work to update Regional Water Management Plan
  • 2013

    • Water Management Plan adopted by MSWD, DWA and CVWD
  • 2010

    • MSWD, DWA, CVWD and other agencies work to develop Regional Water Management Plan
  • 2004

    • MSWD, DWA and CVWD sign settlement agreement to resume deliveries of imported water to replenish Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin and provide for payment of delinquent sustainability charges for previous pumping
  • 2003

    • MSWD sues DWA and CVWD to stop deliveries of imported water to replenish Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin
  • 2002

    • DWA completes construction of replenishment ponds
  • 2001

    • Desert Water Agency requests MSWD support to commence groundwater replenishment program

    • MSWD passes Resolution 2001-15 to support DWA's groundwater replenishment program

  • 1981

    • MSWD General Manager sends letter to DWA acknowledging DWA and CVWD as the entities responsible for managing and replenishing the Mission Creek Groundwater Subbasin
  • 1962

    • Property owners in Desert Hot Springs area petition DWA to be brought into the DWA boundary

    • DWA passes ordinance to annex Desert Hot Springs area only if Desert Hot Springs County Water District (now named Mission Springs Water District) consents

    • Desert Hot Springs County Water District (now MSWD) passes resolution to be annexed into DWA

    • Desert Hot Springs community votes to be annexed into DWA service area

    • DWA expands boundaries
  • 1961

    • DWA is established by an act of the California Legislature, Chapter 1069 of Statutes of 1961

Documents

pdf Mission Creek Groundwater Sustainability Plan Submission Letter

pdf Mission Springs lawsuit (amended June 2018)

pdf 2013 Mission Creek Water Management Plan

pdf 2004 Settlement Agreement - Mission Creek

pdf Mission Springs Water District Resolution 2001 15

pdf Desert Hot Springs County Water District Resolution 8 pdf  (1962)

pdf Desert Water Agency Ordinance 2

pdf Desert Hot Springs property owner petition

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