Four agencies sign historic Colorado River deal

October 10, 2003

After eight years of negotiations, representatives from the San Diego County Water Authority and three water agencies met in Los…

After eight years of negotiations, representatives from the San Diego County Water Authority and three water agencies met in Los Angeles today to sign documents required to implement the Quantification Settlement Agreement, an accord that fundamentally changes the way Colorado River water is distributed and used in California. Officials from the San Diego County Water Authority, Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Coachella Valley Water District and state and federal governments signed agreements that execute the landmark agreement.

“Today is a historic day, not only for the state of California, but especially for San Diego County,” said Bernie Rhinerson, chairman of the Water Authority’s board of directors. “Today’s signing by all four agencies clears the way for San Diego County to receive new, highly reliable water supplies of nearly 280,000 acre-feet a year for generations to come.”The QSA quantifies water entitlements, implements long-term water transfer and supply programs and ensures California up to 75 years of stability in its Colorado River water supplies. Importantly for San Diego, the accord clears the way for the annual transfer of up to 200,000 acre-feet of water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority. An additional 77,700 acre-feet of water will flow annually to the San Diego County Water Authority for 110 years through the lining of the All American and Coachella canals.

When the deliveries of the water are fully ramped up, San Diego County will receive 277,700 acre-feet of new water supplies each year.

“Today we crossed the finish line of a long and arduous marathon,” said Maureen Stapleton, Water Authority general manager, one of the signatories to the QSA. “More than a decade of planning and years of negotiations have brought us to this historic day. Pen has been put to paper and we now move to implementation of the QSA.

“While we have finished running one marathon, the four agencies will refresh and regroup as we begin running the second marathon to implement the agreements we signed today.”

Under the IID-San Diego County Water Authority water transfer agreement, the water transfer ramps up from 10,000 acre-feet this year to 200,000 acre-feet annually in year 19 and thereafter. It has an initial term of 45 years and a renewal term of 30 years with the mutual consent of the Water Authority and IID. This represents a new supply of 12.9 million acre-feet of water over the 75-year term of the agreement.

Payments for the transferred water start at $258 per acre-foot and increase each year according to a set price schedule. After the fifth year, either IID or the Water Authority has an option to reset the cost under the price terms of the 1998 IID-Water Authority Agreement. The Water Authority will pay IID upfront payments of $20 million, including $10 million to offset socioeconomic impacts associated with temporary land fallowing. At the end of the fifth year of the agreement, the Water Authority will prepay IID $10 million for future deliveries of water. IID will credit the Water Authority for its upfront payments during years 16-45.

As part of the QSA, the Water Authority accepts assignment of the Metropolitan Water District’s water rights to 77,700 acre-feet per year for 110 years from projects that will line the All-American and Coachella canals. The project will stop the loss of water that currently occurs through seepage, and that conserved water will go to the Water Authority. This will provide the San Diego region with an additional 8.5 million acre-feet of water over the 110-year life of the agreement. The State Legislature previously authorized $200 million from the state to help pay for construction of the canal-lining projects. The projects are also eligible for $20 million in Proposition 50 funding.

The QSA will provide California a transition period to implement water transfers and supply programs by restoring surplus water available to California under the Colorado River Interim Surplus Guidelines.

California has historically drawn more than its 4.4 million acre-foot basic annual apportionment of Colorado River water. Under the QSA, the agencies will implement a series of core, long-term water transfer and supply agreements that will shift more than 30 million acre-feet from agricultural use to urban use over the life of the agreement:

  • The Imperial Irrigation District-San Diego County Water Authority water transfer of 200,000 acre-feet per year for up to 75 years, totaling nearly 13 million acre-feet over the life of the agreement;
  • Lining of the All American and Coachella canals that would provide 77,700 acre-feet annually to the Water Authority for 110 years, for a total of 8.5 million acre-feet;
  • A 15-year extension of the 1988 Imperial Irrigation District-Metropolitan Water District of Southern California water transfer agreement, yielding Metropolitan an additional 110,000 acre-feet annually, for a total of 1.7 million acre-feet;
  • Water transfers from IID to Coachella Valley Water District of up to 103,000 acre-feet annually, for a total of 3.2 million acre-feet;
  • Water transfers from Palo Verde Irrigation District to Metropolitan averaging 78,600 acre-feet a year (and up to 110,000 acre-feet annually), for a total of 2.75 million acre-feet, subject to finalization with the PVID farmers;
  • Elimination of Coachella’s call rights on half of Metropolitan’s water from the 1988 IID-MWD water transfer, yielding Metropolitan 30,000 acre-feet a year, for a total of 750,000 acre-feet;
  • Final resolution of the San Luis Rey Indian Settlement under which the tribes will receive 16,000 acre-feet annually from the All-American and Coachella Canal lining project, for a total of 1.2 million acre-feet;
  • Reduction in Metropolitan’s obligations to miscellaneous Colorado River rights holders (Present Perfected Rights holders), yielding Metropolitan 14,500 acre-feet annually, for a total of 1.1 million acre-feet.
  • An additional 1.6 million acre-feet over approximately 15 years made available by IID to the state of California, which would resell the water to Metropolitan.The QSA also commits the state to a restoration path for the environmentally sensitive Salton Sea and provides for full environmental mitigation for the water supply programs it contains.

Funding for restoration of the Salton Sea will be accomplished through a series of transactions. IID will make up to 1.6 million acre-feet of additional conserved water available for sale to the state, which the state will sell to MWD at $250 per acre-foot. The proceeds will be deposited into the Salton Sea Restoration Fund. Further, MWD will pay $20 per acre-foot for any special surplus water it receives into the restoration fund. No further funding obligations or in-kind contributions for restoration will be required of CVWD, IID, MWD or the Water Authority.

IID, CVWD and the Water Authority will pay $163 million in costs to satisfy environmental mitigation requirements of the QSA, from which $30 million will be contributed to the Salton Sea Restoration Fund. The Water Authority’s share of the $163 million is $64 million.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to support the region’s $126 billion economy and the quality of life of 3 million residents.

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  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

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