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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

San Diego, Imperial Closer to Water Transfer Deal

San Diego is one step closer to bolstering its water supply with reclaimed water from Imperial Valley, a project it’s been working on for over a year.

Three regional water agencies have signed an agreement that will hopefully end the fighting between California and other western states who want more water from the Colorado River.

In a nutshell, agreement says that California will reduce the amount of water it takes from the river, and Imperial Valley farmers will be paid to conserve their own water.

In addition, the agreement means Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming officials can stop being angry at California for using more of its allotted share of Colorado River water.

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“There’s a great deal that needs to be done, but all of the really important issues are settled,” said Joe Parker, chairman of the board for the San Diego County Water Authority.

“We’re more optimistic than we’ve been,” Parker said.

Optimism Important

That optimism is important, because the deal, and the need for a deal, has been fraught with disagreement for several years.

With the agreement, California will reduce its Colorado River consumption to 4.8 million acre-feet per year.

An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons, enough for two families of four for a year.

California currently uses about 5.2 million acre-feet of river water per year, much more than it’s officially-sanction 4.4 million acre-feet.

San Diego chairman Parker said it’s the best deal the state can have at this point.

“While these events are momentous, much work remains to be done to complete the agreement between the parties and to finally resolve the quantification settlement,” he said.

California’s using more than its fair share of river water hasn’t always been a problem, because bordering states such as Arizona and Utah did not have the same population demands as California. They allowed California to take their surplus.

But as those states have increased in population, complaints have increased that California was refusing to scale back its use.

Unanimous Ratification

The agreement was unanimously ratified by the county water authority, the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District (MWD), Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID).

The deal will have Imperial Valley farmers being paid to conserve water, and “water swaps” will prevent the Coachella and the Metropolitan districts from losing money on the farmer’s conservation.

“This is not only a good deal for Metropolitan and 16 million consumers, but for the entire state as well,” said Phillip Pace, chairman of the board for Metropolitan.

One of the most important features of the agreement is its support of the planned IID and San Diego County Water Authority transfer.

A provision of the agreement links the duration of the settlement to the continuation of the water transfer.

Under the provision, the term of the agreement is 75 years or “such date that the transfer is terminated for any reason other than voluntarily by IID and the water authority.”

This provision means that the agreement can be extended past its scheduled 75 years.

“Each of the parties to the agreement will continue to receive the benefits of the settlement as long as the transfer water moves to San Diego,” said CWA chairman Parker.

Everyone Has a Stake

“Everyone in California has something at stake in the success of our transfer. This makes that fact clearer than ever,” he said.

Under the settlement:

– IID’s Colorado River annual allocation will be capped at 3.1 million acre-feet. That figure is the baseline from which the agency will transfer water to other groups, including the San Diego water authority.

– Coachella Valley water district’s allocation will be capped at 330,000 acre-feet, but combined with related water transactions, would receive 456,000 acre-feet annually.

– MWD’s allocation remains at 550,000 acre-feet , but combined with new transactions, will increase to 651,000 acre-feet annually.

– Between 130,000 and 200,000 acre-feet of water will be transferred from the IID each year to the San Diego County Water Authority.

The agreement still faces about a two year public review period, at which point the agreement will be formally ratified.

‘Everyone in California has something at stake in the success of our transfer. This makes that fact clearer than ever.’

Joe Parker, Chairman

San Diego County Water Authority


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