Quiet title action supports constitutional rights

November 9, 2014


The opinion expressed by Robert Brown in his Nov. 3, article entitled “Basin Adjudication Does Not Solve Our Groundwater Problems” seems to express a bit of desperation.

Mr. Brown is correct that both Laurie Gage’s articles and his opinion piece on the subject did strike a nerve because they both suggest that we should sit back and let our individual property rights be stripped away “for the common good.”

When I served in the military and again when I was employed for many years as a defense contractor I took binding oaths to protect this country and its Constitution. I still believe that the freedoms and liberties handed down to us are well worth defending. That for me is the “common good.”

Mr. Brown stated in this article that those who have filed the ‘quiet title’ action “possess a selfish sense of entitlement.” He completely ignores the fact that the Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) members did not file a lawsuit at all. They have simply requested a court to affirm their constitutional right to the reasonable use of the water under their property by granting a quiet title to that end.

That action only generated a lawsuit when the water purveyors in the area (those who sell water) claimed that they already have a prescriptive right to the water under your property because they have been using it for over five years. Although true on the surface, the purveyors have certainly not been using our water for over five years since the passage of the urgency water ordinance by the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors calling for a reduction in water use. Mr. Brown also refers to the ‘quiet title’ action as an unpopular approach the problem.

A vast majority of the people that I have talked to about ‘quiet title’ find it to be a great idea. The ‘quiet title’ action has only increased exponentially in membership since its inception, so I can only surmise that ‘quiet title’ is only “unpopular” with those that seek to own your water rights.

Mr. Brown’s accusation that the exporting of water is a “baseless conspiracy theory” falls apart with a bit of research. The Limoneira Corporation is currently, openly laying the groundwork to use their Windfall Farms in Creston to sell water through a friendly adjudication action.

Mr. Brown might also want to talk to his fellow Paso Robles Agriculture Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS) board member, Matt Turrentine, to find out why he has tapped into the vast financial support of the huge Harvard Endowment Fund to invest in all the property that can be bought in the Shandon area, conspicuously close to the California State Water Project supply.

Water purveyors and distributors, like the Metropolitan Water District, (MWD) have made great profits in areas like Mojave and Ventura Counties by storing their so called “surplus water,” water that only exists on paper by way of calculated projections, in an area like this, then pumping out wet water from the ground at a later date to satisfy their customer’s needs. I don’t know how to call that anything other than “selling water.”

Mr. Brown has also completely ignored the fact that the recently passed Pavley-Dickinson legislation excludes all water basins that are currently under adjudication because they are considered to already be under a management plan. One that is based on California law and does not bend to any political or for profit agenda.

Additionally, Mr. Brown conveniently ignores the fact that San Luis Obispo County already has a water district formed years ago under previous State legislation. (AB3030) The SLO County Board of Supervisors serves as the governing body for our AB3030 Water District and in doing so is already in compliance with Pavely-Dickenson.

This completely comports Mr. Brown’s allegation that a State takeover is hanging over our heads.

Again, Mr. Brown twists the facts when stating that the litigants in the quiet title action must prove that the right to their water has been hindered by the appropriators. The fact is that the appropriators have claimed that they already have a right to that water because they have openly been using it for a period of at least five years of which the entire aquifer has been in a shortage, with the property owners’ full knowledge.

Remember, the SLO County Board of Supervisors only recently notified all water users in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin that the basin was challenged and passed the current ‘urgency ordinance’ just over a year ago, not five years ago.

The truth is that the only burden of proof on the property owners is to prove that they do in fact own their property and are therefore ‘over layers’ with the right to use the water under their land for reasonable purposes as is delineated in the California Constitution.

Finally, Mr. Brown has stated that the quiet title action has pitted neighbor against neighbor and those not in the action will have to hire their own attorney to defend themselves. This is completely false and an attempt to generate fear among those who don’t have all the facts.

Obtaining quiet title on your property deed does not grant you the right to use more water than your neighbor; however, it does provide a means of protection if you have a neighbor or an appropriator that is pumping so much water from their wells that they are negatively affecting your well. So the only ‘neighbors’ that may need to run out and hire their own attorney would be those who are guilty of over-pumping.

Allen Duckworth is a Ground Squirrel Hollow resident concerned with the condition of the aquifer.

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Too often people in the business of governing use the term “political” as their underlying basis for decision making. The idea of private rights seems to be overlooked when it comes to the management of what will likely become a new revenue stream. Polical vs Private is an ongoing battle and absolutely is the case when it comes to water.

If polical were the answer to every water debate, the cities would gladly vote to take the farm water for their new voter housing projects. Fortunately this is America and as long as we fight for our individual rights, the rights-of-owners will remain intact.

We are a civilized nation and our civil courts sometimes have to be hired to remind others to recognize rights-of-owners. A Quiet Title Action is just that, it is not a politcal decision seeking votes, it is a legal affirmation of what has been requested is consistant with the laws of the land.

Certainly this is my opinion as an individual and for those who disagree, there are lots of tax dollars that can be spent for the benefit of government growth.


I understand your concern. I have to take exception to your paragraph on the Metropolitan Water District. The Metropolitan Water District has spent millions of dollars in Water Banking projects, where they store water in an underground aquifer during wet periods for their use during droughts. They spent this money on infrastructure for irrigation districts that makes it possible to fill the aquifers in wet years and also to pull the water out in dry years. This includes financial benefits to the land owners in the irrigation district. This is all done with a legal agreement between MWD and the irrigation districts. The irrigation districts are willing partners in this.

This is just as real as an above ground reservoir and not just something on paper. You might not like MWD because they are a big water agency, but you have to admit they had the forethought and will to spend their money when it counted – before the drought hit. I suggest you research Water Banking more before condemning MWD. It cheapens your argument.

JMO, I think he was referring to Westland’s Water District

JMO- I would suggest that you take a look at how well the Las Posas water banking deal with MWD worked out for that community. Water banking only works for the individuals gaming the system. It has been a total failure and put the community in huge debt with nothing to show for it.