Central Basin Municipal Water District has filed a federal lawsuit against the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) for cybersquatting and trademark infringement.

WRD has been charged with unlawfully using Central Basin website domain names to create fake Central Basin websites designed to confuse and mislead the public.

Domain names including centralbasin.net, central-basin.net and centralbasinreplenishment.org–each of which has separate Twitter and Facebook accounts–are at the heart of the dispute.

Central Basin claims that, over the last few weeks, the header of each website has changed from ‘Central Basin Water’ to ‘Central Basin News and Issues’ to ‘Central Basin Groundwater and Water Issues.’

The organization said the majority of website posts have featured outdated newspaper articles and letters critical of the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

“Why would a public agency need so many websites, not to mention Facebook and Twitter accounts?” questioned Central Basin general manager Art Aguilar.

“It is the deceptive use of social media by one agency to harm another. The term ‘astrotweeting’ comes to mind.”

Back in August, WRD wrote to Central Basin denying ownership of the websites. However, a domain name consultancy has since confirmed that WRD had purchased the websites and hired a third party to keep its ownership secret.

“These actions are not only a violation of federal law but they are also a continuing commentary on how WRD chooses to do business secretively, behind closed doors and not in the public interest,” said Mr. Aguilar.

Water agencies embroiled in cybersquatting dispute
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