Below is a snippet from an article published on the California Farm Bureau’s AgAlert by Justin Fredrickson, environmental policy analyst for the California Farm Bureau Federation.
“Indeed, it’s no accident that numerous, solution-oriented conservation groups strongly endorse this bond, along with representatives of agriculture and business, flood-control districts and water districts throughout the state. Conservation groups supporting Proposition 3 include the Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Planning and Conservation League, Sustainable Conservation, California Trout, Natural Heritage Institute, Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association and Save the Bay.
“That’s because Proposition 3 includes funding for conservancies, recycling, water conservation, stormwater capture, fish, waterfowl, Salton Sea restoration and forest management.”
As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%
After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway.
Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order. California’s huge river take would drop 4.5% to 8% as the shortage progressed.
With occasional years of relief, the river that greens farm fields and fills faucets from Colorado to California has been stuck in drought since 2000. A shortage declaration has been looming over the seven-state basin for more than a decade, only to be narrowly averted time and again when rain and snow in the upper basin pushed reservoir levels above the trigger point.
But flows into Lake Powell — one of the Colorado’s two massive reservoirs — fell to a little more than a third of the average for the April-through-July period this year. And September’s inflow was negligible, less than 1% of the average. Looking at those numbers, federal officials say the U.S. Interior Department could declare a shortage in 2020.
“It’s pretty clear we’re in a deepening long-term drought cycle,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has been importing Colorado River water to the region since the early 1940s. “It’s in everybody’s interest to prevent the system from cratering.”
The basin’s entire storage system is 47% full. Lake Powell, which stores runoff from the upper basin and releases it to Lake Mead, is 45% full. Mead, the source of Southern California’s river water, is 38% full.
The Interior secretary has never declared a shortage on the Colorado. But it has been known for years that the river is over-allocated. The basin states divvied up the flows in the early 20th century — a period that in hindsight was unusually wet and presented an unrealistic picture of what the Colorado could produce year in and year out.
Diversions are regulated by a complicated system of river compacts and water rights that call for Arizona and Nevada to take the first cuts in times of a lower-basin shortage. California, with some of the oldest river rights, is further down the line.
The sprawling Imperial Irrigation District and other farm districts in southeastern California control roughly 75% of California’s 4.4 million-acre-foot share. Imperial is the single largest user on the entire length of the river, which starts at the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies and has an average annual flow of roughly 15 million acre-feet.
Metropolitan has nearly doubled its base allocation of 550,000 acre-feet through agreements with Imperial and other irrigation districts that fallow crop land and sell their unused river supplies. Those deals would help cushion Metropolitan, which serves Southern California, if a shortage is declared. (An acre-foot is enough to supply more than two households for a year.)
Metropolitan would also benefit from water it has been able to bank in Lake Mead under 2007 drought guidelines that have allowed states to leave unused portions of their river allocations in the reservoir. Under the previous use-it-or-lose-it rules, states had to take their full allocation every year.
The 2007 framework specified that the Department of the Interior would declare a shortage when Lake Mead’s elevation hit 1,075 feet. Nevada and Arizona, which have rights junior to California, would then start delivery reductions.
Under the proposed drought contingency plan, Arizona and Nevada would continue to take the first cuts, which would be deeper than outlined in 2007. At the same time, California would reduce its river diversions when Mead levels hit 1,045 feet — earlier in the shortage than previously envisioned.
California’s cuts, shared by Imperial and Metropolitan, would increase as the lake level dropped but be no greater than 350,000 acre-feet a year.
Arizona is still working out the details of how to apportion its cuts among in-state users. And the lower-basin water districts have yet to approve the drought plan, which parties are hoping to finalize by December.
“I’ve got my own people asking tough questions. But I believe we can do it,” Metropolitan’s Kightlinger said.
A drought plan will not end debate among lower-basin users, who are confronting the fact that their use is outstripping the long-term supply.
“It’s not sustainable,” Kightlinger said. “We have to push it down or grow supply” with other sources.
Passage of Proposition 3 is Dependent Upon Educating the Public
by Timothy Quinn
Oct 5, 2018
Voices on Water
With one month left before the Nov. 6 general election, water agencies should seriously consider making a concerted effort now to educate their communities about Proposition 3, if they have not already done so. Numerous reasons can be listed as examples of how passage of this water bond will not only benefit Californians, but their children and grandchildren. In the bigger picture, Proposition 3 builds on momentum from the passage of Proposition 68 passed in June, and it will require a tremendous amount of momentum to overcome the many challenges culminating within California water before our eyes.
Climate change, the increasingly catastrophic natural disasters that result from it and aging water infrastructure have compounded in the already uniquely challenging era in California water affecting us on a daily basis. Meanwhile, we remain well aware of the unacceptable fact that some disadvantaged communities lack access to safe drinking water – a problem that we strongly agree must be solved, but not through bad policy that leads to unanticipated consequences that benefit no one.
The Imperial Irrigation District is working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the other Colorado River Basin States to create a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Below is a clip from the Imperial Valley Press regarding IID and the DCP:
IID representatives, along with members of the various Colorado River water contractors, on Sept. 17 and 18 participated in a basin states meeting in Las Vegas hosted by the bureau to explore the creation of a basin-wide DCP.
“I attended the Colorado River meeting in Las Vegas to discuss the drought contingency plan process with the two basins and seven states that are in this process and identify critical next steps,” IID Board President James C. Hanks, Division 3, said during the regular board meeting Tuesday afternoon. “These meetings were led by Reclamation Commissioner Brenda W. Burman, and I can report that while there is still no DCP, there is considerable interest on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation … in completing one before the year’s end.”
IID is exploring the creation of a DCP in concert with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that would expand how much water it can store behind Hoover Dam in Lake Mead. The DCP would only be approved by IID if it were to ensure that such water can be withdrawn on demand, that the authority to unilaterally preside over local agricultural water conservation methods are solely the purview of IID and that such an agreement would not put the Salton Sea at further risk of drying up due to lower water inflow.
The following excerpt is from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. You can read the complete article here.
Not by much: Colorado River system to stay out of shortfall status through 2019
As news reports have indicated, the “August 2018 24-Month Study” of the Colorado River system, released Wednesday by the Bureau of Reclamation, tells at least two big water stories for the Southwest.
For one, it illustrates that the Lower Basin will not be in a shortage for 2019. According to the Bureau’s “most likely” scenario, Lake Mead will finish 2018 about four and a half feet above the “shortage declaration” cutoff, which is 1,075 feet in elevation.
A shortage declaration would trigger a set of criteria in the 2007 interim guidelines calling for Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water to be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet.
In addition to those anticipated conditions – inspired, largely, by decades of drought and a chronic structural deficit in annual Lower Basin deliveries – the 2018 August study tells us much about the complex relationship between the system’s two great reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
The estimated cost of the Delta tunnels project, Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial plan to re-engineer the troubled hub of California’s water network, has jumped to nearly $20 billion when accounting for inflation.
Tunnels backers say the higher cost reflects the impact from inflation over 16 years, not cost over-runs or design changes, and isn’t expected to hurt the project’s ability to move ahead.
One of the most surprising findings in the July PPIC survey is the strong support for an $8.9 billion state water bond among California likely voters (58%). Support for the bond―Proposition 3 on the November ballot―comes close on the heels of California voters passing a $4.1 billion state water and parks bond in June. What’s going on?
Majorities of California likely voters across partisan and demographic groups and the state’s regions say that water supply is a big problem in their part of California. Water supply and drought were the number one environmental problem named by likely voters in the survey (24%). Since Governor Brown took office in 2011, water supply and drought have been among the top environmental issues named by likely voters, and since 2014, together they have been named the most important environmental issue facing the state.