For IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2002
Fact Sheet on the Proposed Imperial
Valley-San Diego Water Transfer
On December 9, the Imperial Valley Irrigation district voted
not to transfer water to San Diego as outlined in the Hertzberg
negotiated settlement. This means that the proposed Quantification
Settlement Agreement (QSA) will not go forward. If this deal falls
through, California's Metropolitan Water District (MWD) will get
800,000 acre-feet less water next year. Although MWD claims that
they have enough storage for the next two years, this water reduction
could have serious consequences for California. (More information
on the QSA can be found on MWD's webpage: http://ww.mwd.dst.ca.us).
According to Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate with the
Pacific Institute, "California's impending water crisis could
have been avoided had environmental and community interests helped
to craft the transfer agreement. Instead, community and environmental
impacts were ignored until too late. For California to live within
its means, the full range of water impacts must be addressed."
Mr. Cohen also noted that: "Interior's decision to separate
the water transfer from the Salton Sea is at least partly responsible
for California's current water crisis. Interior needs to step
up and protect the Salton Sea, so that the water transfer may
The Pacific Institute has put together this web page to explain
the possible consequences and implications.
- It is looking very unlikely that any Imperial Valley-San
Diego water transfer will be completed by December 31.
- Without a transfer, the Quantification Settlement Agreement
(QSA) will not be executed by December 31.
- In turn, the Secretary of Interior to suspend surplus
deliveries to California next year.
- his means that roughly 800,000 acre-feet less water
will be provided to California (An acre-foot is enough to supply
two households of four people for a year).
- This reduction in supply will initially be borne entirely
by Metropolitan Water District (MWD). MWD delivers water to approximately
17 million people in southern California.
- Colorado River water comprises 30% of these current deliveries
(the rest come from local supplies and northern California).
- MWD claims to have sufficient storage to make it through
the next 2 years
Possible near-term consequences:
- Imperial Valley Irrigation District (IID) farmers could
attempt to circumvent IID and contract directly with San Diego
for their water.
- IID farmers could sue IID for failing to fulfill their
- The California legislature might pass legislation dissolving
- The California legislature might pass legislation separating
IID's water and power divisions, making the water division solely
responsive to farmers (by voting based on acreage).
- The Governor could declare a state of emergency and temporarily
reallocate water from IID to MWD.
- The Bureau of Reclamation might review the reasonability
of IID's water use and reduce deliveries by 400,000+ acre-feet.
Consequences for the Salton Sea:
- Either of the above could immediately reduce flows to
the Salton Sea, increasing salinity and possibly shocking the
system, increasing the incidence of dead birds and fish, especially
over the longer term.
- Such immediate reductions will also make it much more
difficult to ever restore the Salton Sea as a whole
- The Salton Sea is an inland body of water located near
the Mexican border that is fed by agricultural flows from the
Imperial Valley. Despite being fed by runoff, the Salton Sea is
an important habitat for birds, fish, and other creatures.
Visit the Salton
Sea Information Page.