EL CENTRO – In the wake of Gov. Brown’s drought emergency proclamation, Imperial Irrigation District reiterates its concern for the current state water supply conditions that are now echoing the challenging hydrology facing its Colorado River water supply.
While IID already operates under a reasonable and beneficial use standard, this announcement should be viewed as a renewed call for Imperial Valley water users to continue to implement their best management practices and conservation measures.
This declaration is not anticipated to affect the district’s Colorado River water supplies, which are defined by federal shortage criteria tied to the elevation of Lake Mead.
The Colorado River benefits from an extremely large system of reservoir storage; however, it is facing its own hydrologic challenge with potential shortages projected for non-California water users as soon as 2016-2017.
Friday’s executive order will allow for a broader request for a federal designation that will expedite some short-term water transfers, provide financial assistance and suspend certain state environmental regulations. It also makes available certain federal programs meant to assist with agricultural unemployment and financial losses.
“A drought declaration has both administrative and political value; most importantly it puts California water users on notice that there are water supply conditions that require everyone’s awareness and participation,” said Tina Shields, IID manager of Colorado River resources.
According to Shields this declaration provides additional motivation to IID and affirms its renewed focus on pressing for the state to live up to the Salton Sea restoration commitments made in support of the Quantification Settlement Agreement.
The proposed Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative will preserve the long-term viability of the QSA and ensure the conserved water made available from the nation’s largest agricultural-to-urban water transfer is not derailed by environmental or health concerns at the Salton Sea.
“While reservoir levels in Southern California aren’t as depleted as those in the central and northern portions of the state, the governor has asked all California residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent,” Shields said. “Water suppliers and municipalities aren’t required to enforce these use reductions; however, I would anticipate stepped up monitoring and a phasing in of enforcement actions as water agencies attempt to better manage their water supplies through reduced demands.”
The governor’s declaration was not unexpected, although it occurred sooner than anticipated after the January snow survey found more areas with bare ground than snow, and a statewide water content of only about 20 percent. The next survey is scheduled for Feb.3.