California’s largest agricultural user and urban user of stressed Colorado River water resources have announced a settlement in a two-year legal dispute.
The agreement between the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) was signed last week after being approved by the agencies’ respective boards. It settles disputes between MWD and IID that arose in 2019 over the implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan, a series of agreements negotiated between and within the seven Colorado River Basin states to prevent both the river’s largest reservoirs reach extremely low levels, according to a press release. Release.
âWith this dispute behind us, we can start working together again towards tomorrow’s solutions to address our significant challenges on the Colorado River,â said MWD Managing Director Adel Hagekhalil. âSeven states, two nations, several Native American tribes, countless towns and farms – all depend on the waters of the Colorado River. And yet, the current level of dependency is not sustainable. It is only by working together that we can balance this river. Today we have taken an important step in this direction.
IID CEO Henry Martinez said, âIn entering into this settlement agreement, IID and Metropolitan recognize that the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the Colorado River system is where the two agencies work together. on these critical issues. IID continues to advocate for the protection of the Salton Sea and, with our partners, will seek additional state and federal funding to build much-needed restoration projects.
The Colorado River has been in drought conditions for over two decades and climate change is making matters significantly worse. Warmer, drier conditions over the past 10 years have produced the lowest runoff the river has ever seen, dropping the level of the system’s largest storage reservoir, Lake Mead, to its lowest level. since filling in the 1930s. As a result, last month the Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever Level 1 shortage on the river, sparking reductions in Arizona and Nevada.
MWD and IID have a long history of working together on the Colorado River. They have teamed up to implement water conservation, transfer and storage programs that have provided mutual benefits to both organizations. This partnership was suspended due to a dispute that arose during the preparation of the emergency drought plan. In 2019, IID filed a complaint alleging that MWD violated the California Environmental Quality Act when MWD approved its participation in DCP. And in 2020, IID filed another lawsuit against MWD alleging breach of contract related to the storage of Colorado River water.
Under the settlement agreement, IID may store additional amounts of water held on MWD’s Lake Mead account. If Lake Mead continues to decline to a level requiring California to make a Contribution under the Drought Contingency Plan, IID will help make that contribution. The settlement also resolves a dispute over water MWD diverted in 2018 through shared water storage between agencies. It also establishes that the MWD and IID will explore ways to increase the drought resilience of Lake Mead and that the MWD will support ongoing efforts to secure state and federal funding for the Salton Sea.
The deal allows MWD and IID to resume negotiating new solutions to address the imbalance on the Colorado River. The DCP expires in 2026, and states, water agencies, tribes and parts of Mexico that depend on the river enter into negotiations on a new set of long-term solutions.