A three-judge panel has ruled that farmers do not have special privilege to water for irrigation use, handing a victory to the Imperial Irrigation District in a long-standing legal battle with farmer Michael Abatti.

The court ruled the IID’s “purposes and powers extend beyond irrigation … and it is obligated to provide equitable service to all beneficial users.” Abatti, the court said, was “essentially arguing that farmers have a right to receive the amounts of water that they have historically used to irrigate their crops. This argument is contrary to both the case law regarding irrigation districts and their users, and the principle of reasonable use.”

Abatti, as previously covered in Agri-Pulse, has had a lengthy tussle with IID on the subject, stating in court filings that the district “has no power to take away a vested water right created under the laws of this state.”

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In a statement, Norma Galindo, IID board president, celebrated the ruling.

“This is a historic decision by the Court of Appeals whose ruling affirms IID’s position that it (IID) is the water rights holder for Imperial Valley and that there is no privileged class of water users; and that, furthermore, agricultural water users have the same rights to service that all other water users do,” she said.

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