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Stanford study reveals the changing scope of Native American groundwater rights – and opportunities for better freshwater management

A map of the western half of the US with colored regions
Image credit: Philip Womble
Aug 3 2018
Research, Stanford, Students

California’s Coachella Valley may be ground zero for a new chapter in water rights for Native American tribes, according to a new Stanford study published in the journal Science.

Better known for lush golf courses, glittering pools, a popular music festival and temperatures topping 120 degrees, this inland desert is also home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has fought since 2013 for federal courts to affirm its right to groundwater beneath its reservation. Lower courts ruled in the tribe’s favor, and in late 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal.

Lead author Philip Womble is a 2016 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.

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