City of Los Angeles v. City of San Fernando

14 Cal. 3d 199, 186 P.2d 1250 (1975)

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City of Los Angeles v. City of San Fernando

California Supreme Court
14 Cal. 3d 199, 186 P.2d 1250 (1975)

Facts

The City of Los Angeles (LA) (plaintiff) held groundwater rights in the San Fernando Basin based on municipal-services water appropriation. LA also imported water from outside the basin, which it spread in permeable soils to percolate into the basin aquifer for later use. LA also delivered imported water to agricultural users, a significant portion of which would return to the basin through percolation. The storage and return aspects were part of LA’s water-importation design. In a prior court action, LA obtained an adjudicated right to recover the imported water it added to the basin and the calculated return quantity of the imported water used by its customers. In 1955, as demands grew and the basin reached an overdraft condition whereby demand exceeded the safe yield of the basin, LA filed a quiet-title action against the Cities of Glendale and Burbank and seven private water providers (defendants) to establish and protect its rights to the imported water. Glendale, Burbank, and the private entities argued that all pumping rights must be considered together, that LA had abandoned its rights to the imported water, and that the doctrine of mutual prescription should be determinative. After 20 years of litigation, the case reached the California Supreme Court. During the 20 years, there were periods of overdraft and excess water, depending on weather conditions. Experts determined that excess water would go to waste if not applied to beneficial use.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wright, J.)

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