Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chief Jeff Grubbe. The Tribe is suing the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District, alleging years of mismanagement of the local water supply.

Water officials in the Coachella Valley are claiming to be making progress in their efforts to keep from depleting the natural aquifer that the Palm Springs area sits atop. They’ve come up with a solution: keep on pumping water out of the aquifer. Replenish it with water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta. The only problem? The tunnels which could transport the water have never been built.


Sign announcing the use of recycled water, a responsible approach to water management, but one that only 18 out of 124 Coachella Valley golf courses employs.

The Coachella Valley has some of the heaviest water use in California, due in no small part to the presence of 124 golf courses in the area, only 18 of which use recycled water for irrigation. The remaining 106 draw fresh water from the ground. And that’s just the golf courses.


Philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg with First Lady Betty and President Gerald Ford

There’s is also the problem of zip code — the 92270 of Rancho Mirage, one of the “richest” zip codes in the country. It is also the realm of the politically well-connected. Senator Barbara Boxer calls Rancho Mirage home, as did President and First Lady Ford. 

Perhaps nothing illustrates the success of Rancho Mirage excess better than the Sunnylands estate, the former winter home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg and now a high-level retreat center for national and international leaders.  It sits on 200 acres of manicured lawns and gardens and even boasts it’s own private golf course. President Obama recently met there with Chinese President Xi Jinpin. It’s that kind of place.

Groundwater levels have dropped by more than 100 feet underneath Rancho Mirage since the 1950’s, indicating some of the most intense water consumption Valley-wide. It takes a lot of water to keep the landscaping green as money. 


Aerial view of a not atypical estate in the desert city of Rancho Mirage.

It should be no surprise that the Valley’s original residents, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, are suing the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency to assert their rights to the groundwater. Their suit accuses the agencies of mismanaging the water supply.

“DWA and CVWD continue to…mislead the public into thinking that everything is OK and that they have a handle on the issue when clearly they do not,” Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe said in a statement to the Desert Sun.

Is a desert really the place for dozens of golf courses and sprawling estates with acres and acres of manicured lawns?


If the water dries up in Rancho Mirage, no doubt they’ll just truck in pallets of Evian Water to fill up their swimming pools and water their parched gardens. But what about everybody else?

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