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District Must Pay Back Water Taken from Lake

(CN) - The Nevada Truckee River irrigation district must give back water to Pyramid Lake after diverting too much of it in past years for agriculture, the 9th Circuit ruled.

The Paiute Shoshone Indian Tribe took the board of directors for the Truckee irrigation district to court, claiming the district excessively diverted the river's water supply over a span of several years.

In the early 1990s, Congress implemented a settlement plan to cap the amount of water the district used after the Indians expressed concern for the health and preservation of the life in and around Pyramid Lake. Truckee River, where the diversions occurred, is the lake's primary source of water.

The district consistently violated the settlement, prompting the Paiute Tribe to file suit in district court. The district court decided against the water agency, ruling that it had willfully violated the settlement.

But the ruling held the U.S. government responsible for the excessive irrigation, not the board, because it had not updated the settlement to reflect the water's duties in a 1980 decree.

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