Skip to main content

West Basin Water Rights Panel

The West Basin Water Rights Panel is made up of five representatives including three members from the West Basin Water Association, whom are elected officers of president, vice-president and treasure, and two members that are selected by the West Basin Water Association Board of Directors. The Panel began its Watermaster duties in January 2015.

History of the West Coast Basin Watermaster

In 1870, the communities of Inglewood and Long Beach tapped the artesian aquifers and springs east of the Newport-Inglewood Uplift. When these stopped flowing, water users were forced to drill shallow wells. By 1909 the technique used to develop groundwater advanced dramatically with the advent of the deep-well turbine pump. Dependable sources of water attracted industry and agriculture, and in time the demand for water exceeded the rate at which the Basin replenished naturally. In the 1920s water levels throughout the Basin dropped below sea level and wells along Santa Monica Bay were abandoned because the water was too salty. By 1932, the entire coastal reach of the Basin was invaded by sea water.

Groundwater quality deterioration continued until 1945, when the California Water Service Company, the City of Torrance, and the Palos Verdes Water Company filed suit in the Los Angele County Superior Court. Their objectives were to quiet title to the groundwater rights of each pumper and to establish control over groundwater extractions from the Basin. Other organizations joined the litigation, leading to the formation of the West Basin Water Association in 1946. A plan was developed to (1) provide supplemental supply for major producers, (2) limit groundwater extractions, and (3) create an exchange pool to provide pumping rights for users not having access to supplemental water.

The first step of the plan was realized in 1947 with the formation of the West Basin Municipal Water District to distribute water from the Colorado River. The District was annexed to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 1948, and that year Colorado River water began flowing into the West Coast Basin, followed by the State Water Project water in 1974.  In 1946, the second and third steps of the plan were taken to the Court’s preliminary hearings to define the groundwater problem and outline those areas needing more information. The Court asked the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to define the boundaries and determine the geohydrology characteristics of the West Coast Basin.

Several years passed before water users became sufficiently alarmed by groundwater conditions to draft an Interim Agreement that reduced groundwater extractions until a final judgment could be approved. The Court approved the Interim Agreement on February 16, 1955, and appointed DWR as Watermaster to administer it. On August 18, 1961, after 16 years of litigation, the Court rescinded the Interim Agreement and signed the West Coast Basin Judgment. The Judgment retained DWR as Watermaster.

The Judgment has been amended multiple time since its inception, most recent was on December 5, 2014. For the first time, the Court allows water rights holders to have direct input into how the Judgment is administered and enforced. The Judgment confirms the retirement of DWR as the Watermaster and mandates the creation of a new Watermaster with three separate bodies serving different functions.

Specifically, the Watermaster is composed of the Administrative Body, the Water Rights Panel, and the Storage Panel:

1.       The Judgment appoints WRD as the Administrative Body to assist the Court in the administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Judgment. In addition, to fulfill Watermaster accounting and reporting functions.
2.       The Water Rights Panel, consisting of five members, enforces issues related to pumping rights within the adjudication and is made up of five West Coast Basin water rights holders. Three of the members are the elected officers of president, vice-president and treasurer of the West Basin Water Association, and the remaining two members are selected by the Board of Directors of the West Basin Water Association.

The Storage Panel is composed of the Water Rights Panel and the WRD Board of Directors, which together review and approve storage projects within the Basin.

For more information regarding the West Coast Basin Water Rights Panel, visit