IMPERIAL COUNTY — “It’s snowing!” is how Imperial Irrigation District Water Manager Tina Shields began her hydrology report at the March 21 regular meeting. The water manager’s monthly reports have taken a turn to the positive after years of dire Lake Mead elevation readings.
Although Central California irrigates with water from different sources other than the Colorado River, the Valley’s sole source of water, Shields reported the continuous atmospheric rivers have been devastating to the Central Valley farmland with reports of flooding and washing out of ground.
“Every drought is followed by a flood,” she said. “They have had 250% above average of rain, the photos of two-story houses buried in snow and ski lifts unusable because they are covered in snow are crazy. They are actually talking about Fourth of July skiing and that fields will stay flooded for months. It is all time record breaking.”
Turning back to the Colorado upper basin that supplies the bulk of the water for the lower basin, she said the numbers are looking positive, even if not as high a percentage as Central California. Traditionally, April 1 is the Upper Basin snow peak and then the numbers decline. More snow is forecast so that date will be pushed back. Ironically the measured water inflows to the reservoirs are below average, but according to Shields that is because the water is still in the snow. Not until the snow begins to melt will anyone know how that will affect water levels at lakes Mead and Powell.
“The forecasts are 10-million-acre feet of water will be delivered into the system. The average lately has been 9.8 maf. That means the worst case we were facing has been pushed off.” Shields referred to the mandatory water delivery cuts the upper and lower basin were soon to face before the winter storms changed the outlook. She said that the Water Master has cut orders to the Valley.
“That’s good for now. It pushes water away from the Valley, the downside is when demand rises, it takes time to build capacity back up. But for now, it is good as Brock Reservoir is full and we have no place to park the water,” Shields said.
According to the State, the only place still left in a drought is our region, however that is expected as this area is a desert, Shields said.
Although the Colorado basins’ rain numbers don’t equal California’s, the rainfall is 150 % above average, but the levels at Lake Mead are still not good.
Mike Pacheco, IID’s other water manager, spoke about a mid-lateral reservoir being built by Calipatria that would be ready by May 2 and would hold 45 acre feet of water when completed. The reservoir built on IID ground would be gravity in and gravity out, not requiring pumping. The next reservoir will be built in the Holtville area. Both allow the IID to store excess water until needed which is a vital tool for the district to manage its year end totals so as to not have either an overrun or underrun of Colorado River water.
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