California’s high court has agreed to hear several lawsuits alleging that the state’s water system was unlawfully and capriciously shut down during California’s devastating drought in the 1990s.
The high court on Thursday unanimously agreed to review a lawsuit filed by two families that say the state illegally shut down a reservoir in the Sacramento Valley that supplies drinking water to more than 80,000 people.
The families, which include farmers and ranchers, are asking for an injunction to force the state to turn over its groundwater pumping data.
The California Department of Water Resources said in a statement it is reviewing the decision.
The decision is a victory for the plaintiffs, who had requested a nationwide injunction against the state, saying they were being treated unfairly by a court that did not know what it was talking about.
In January, the high court ruled that California should not be held liable for the spill, citing the need to protect public health and property values.
It also rejected a request from the state for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the state water system to resume pumping water to a handful of counties where residents have suffered severe drought.
The case was brought by the Southern California Water Coalition, which represents about 6,000 landowners and rancher families.
It is the latest legal skirmish in a dispute over water use that has pitted farmers, water users and farmers’ rights against water rights advocates, environmentalists and the state.
The state, which has about 30 million acre-feet of water, has not released water since last summer after farmers and water users fought for years to stop the state from releasing the water.
In 2014, the state was sued by water users in five other states.
The case was dismissed, but two other cases are still pending in the state courts.
The state’s Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision in 2015.