harvesting lettuce

EL CENTRO — The Water Conservation Advisory Board (WCAB) was first established by the IID Board of Directors in July of 1979. The WCAB was created to provide information and input related to water use efficiencies, for both system and on-farm water management practices, to the IID Board of directors and the public. The WCAB consists of a total of 15 water users, three from each division, who are appointed by the five IID directors. Since the inception of the advisory board, few changes in the bylaws or policy have been made despite the fact the important issue of the day was the Salton Sea encroaching on the surrounding farmland.

Since that time, the water advisory board has seen changes such as Decision 1600 when the State waterboard concluded the IID wasted and misused river water after a complaint was filed by John Elmore who farmed along the Salton Sea’s overflowing banks. Also, the QSA was signed, which transfers water to San Diego via the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).

IID Director JB Hamby who attended the WCAB meeting February 11, said the committee evolved without direction and had an unclear purpose.

“Your group offers expertise from the field to be used by the IID Board and staff,” Hamby said. "You need to be a working group with a work product instead of a group that meets that nobody listens to.”

WCAB Member Larry Cox said, “We are a volunteer board, we spend a lot of time crafting programs that falls on deaf ears.”

Mark McBroom, the president of the WCAB, and several other board members met with Hamby and IID staff to right the listless ship and to give the group focus and structure to bring to the regular meeting. 

Three areas of focus were conservation, water operations, and water development.

Recently, the group has argued with the IID Board's water conservation payments which have ranged from $285/acre foot to $125/acre foot, and their input has carried little weight. McBroom and Hamby proposed getting ahead of the issue rather than reacting to price variations and work on the following year’s program development.

The WCAB will focus on water operations by improving functionality and service with water orders and delivery. As was stated at the meeting, no one wants to irrigate over the weekend, especially Sunday. Most orders are Monday through Friday, causing the canal levels to be inconsistent. A subcommittee will consider operating like Palo Verde Valley and Yuma where canal water levels are balanced. Without the Valley’s ability to put overflow back into the Colorado River as does Palo Verde and Yuma valleys, inline reservoirs would be needed.

The last focus would be on water development or maximizing IID’s Colorado River entitlement for use in its service area.

Salt in the fields was another area of water development. Salt build-up in the fields becomes toxic without a method to push the salt into the tailwater. The newly developed shallow tile system was discussed.

“You can’t continue to build up salt,” Hamby said. “We must have a way to flush it out. With shallower tile, narrower tile, all the salt in the field gets flushed out.”

As the WCAB bylaws and policy gets an update, so will the name of the advisory committee to better reflect its modernization. Although the IID Board gets the final say of name and bylaws, the WCAB believes its input on those matters will not fall on deaf ears.

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