IID takes a look at the drought conditions in California

Lake Mead
Lake Mead

EL CENTRO – California is deep into a 14 year record breaking drought.

The Colorado River Basin storage consists of Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Lake Powell is at 52% capacity and Lake Mead is at 39% capacity.

Lake Powell received some snow-pack runoff from this past winter. Lake Mead is just 7 feet away from the first shortage trigger of 1075 feet.

“Drought conditions are not improving and in fact are worsening,” said Tina Shields, IID Executive Manager. “Imperial Valley is just about normal because of the Colorado River. The Governor has requested that all agencies reduce their usage by 20%. Most urban agencies have ramped up their conservation education outreach efforts. The Feds are also looking to stop excess flows to Mexico.”

There is a Basin Study that was begun in 2012 that is ongoing. First phase activities include municipal conservation, agriculture productivity conservation and transfers, and environmental flows with reports due in late summer.

Other long range projects include cloud seeding and other “No Regrets” options that come up in a time of record breaking drought.

“None of these options will produce any meaningful water in the short term to address the Mead elevation problem,” said IID General Manager Kevin Kelley.

IID is being looked at with a microscope because of our large water allocation.

Local projects like drain water treatment and East Mesa groundwater projects are identified in IID’s long range integrated water resources management plan.

In an attempt to possibly build elevation at Lake Mead, IID and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) have jointly developed a draft proposal to fund and create Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) water for storage in Lake Mead. The proposed partnership would add 2 to 3 feet of elevation to this lower basin reservoir over a period of 3 years. The program would expand IID’s current annual ICS account from 25,000 acre-feet to 200,000 acre-feet. This extra water would come from voluntary fallowing participants. MWD would cover all costs of the conservation costs. In exchange for funding IID’s ICS, MWD would have the right to borrow from IID’s ICS to augment its water supply during the drought.

Local farmers were at the Tuesday IID Board of Directors meeting in force to listen to this presentation and no one was in favor of this proposed program.

“It wouldn’t matter to me personally if your Board opted not to participate in the program,” said Kelley. “Our story is that we are implementing the nation’s largest ag-to-urban water transfer. We are 10 years into it and that ought to be enough. I am mindful that this presents an opportunity for IID to bank water behind the dam.”

“The strict criteria to remove water from Lake Mead at or below the 1075 foot shortage trigger are not explicitly defined,” said Shields.

“Nobody would put water behind that dam if they couldn’t get it out,” said Kelley.

IID is currently looking to save even more water by lining the East Highline Canal, solving some tail water issues, and developing storage for unused water.