Water Deal Helped SD Face Drought


all-american-canalSAN DIEGO – The giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has no plans to ration deliveries even as the state braces for a possible third-straight dry year and the vast Colorado River system remains plagued by plummeting flows into shrinking Lake Mead.

One reason for this welcome reprieve can be traced back 10 years ago this month when warring water interests across the West signed a historic seven-state agreement to share the Colorado River.

That pact also cleared the way for the Imperial Valley to sell supplies to the San Diego County Water Authority.

“We’d be in a world of hurt without it,” said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District, a key signatory to the 2003 river deal.

Since its inception, California has been able to employ policies outlined in the agreement to generate slightly more than three million acre feet of water, according to Metropolitan’s figures.

That’s three million acre feet that agencies may not have had available through the decade as the state continued to grow and fish protections limited water deliveries from the north.

The Imperial-to-San Diego transfer, coupled with improvements to the All-American and Coachella Canals, accounted for about 1.1 million-acre feet during that span. In 2014 alone, the transfer and canal work are expected to provide about 180,000 acre feet — enough to serve 360,000 homes — to the county water authority.

It also means more for Metropolitan 10 years after the district was staring at deep cuts in allocations from the Colorado River.

A separate two million acre feet was generated by allowing Metropolitan to expand and extend pre-existing contracts with farmers who were paid to conserve water with the savings going to the Los Angeles-based district.

There is more to the legacy of the Colorado River agreement. The overarching accord has led to more compromise to conserve, move and store water. One of the biggest changes erased a “use it or lose it” policy at Lake Mead that now allows Metropolitan to bank water there.