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San Buenaventura, City of v. United Water Conservation District

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20158
Nos. S226036, (Cal. , 12/04/2017)

The California Supreme Court held that the charges a California city must pay to a local water district for groundwater conservation activities do not require voter or property owner approval. By statute, charges for pumping groundwater for nonagricultural uses generally must be at least three times the charges for pumping water for agricultural uses. The city, which pumps large quantities of groundwater for delivery to residential customers, contended that the charges it paid to its local water conservation district are disproportionate to the benefits it receives. The city also argued that the charges exceeded proportional cost attributed to the parcels of land on which the charges are imposed in violation of state law, and that the charges are a tax that does not fit the exemptions under state law from requiring approval. The court disagreed, holding that the groundwater pumping was not property-related within the meaning of the law and that it would be practically impossible for the district to calculate the parcels of land that would need water delivery before pumping began. The court, however, remanded to the lower court the question of whether the district's rates bore a reasonable relationship to the benefits of its conservation activities.