The U.S Bureau of Reclamation's proposed reduction of Imperial Irrigation District's 2003 water order is yet another action connected to a divisive and unnecessary water rights litigation that if allowed to continue will leave California's Colorado River water supplies in doubt for decades to come, San Diego County Water Authority officials warned Thursday.
"This proposed action is merely another step in contentious litigation that could place the reliability of California's Colorado River water supplies at considerable risk for a very long time," said Bernie Rhinerson, chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors. "The California economy should not be placed in a water reliability limbo that is created by this path of continued litigation.
"All the parties to this issue have another path readily at hand that creates greater reliability and certainty in each agency's Colorado River supplies for literally generations to come: the Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Water Authority urges the water agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation and the state of California to work together to bring the QSA to a successful conclusion.
"The QSA will benefit all of the participating agencies, provide a reliable water supply for our state, and end this divisive litigation," Rhinerson said.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today announced its recommendation to reduce Imperial Irrigation District's 2003 water order from 3.1 million acre-feet to 2,824,100 acre-feet - a reduction of 275,900 acre-feet -- after conducting a review of the agency's water use under federal law, Title 43, Code of Federal Regulation, Part 417. In December 2002, the Secretary of the Interior reduced IID's 2003 water order from its requested 3.1 million acre-feet to 2.86 million acre-feet, a reduction of approximately 240,000 acre-feet. On April 17, 2003, that action was overturned by a federal judge, who also ordered the Secretary of Interior to conduct a new Part 417 review of IID's water use.
"It is important to point out that the Part 417 process is an annual process," Rhinerson said. "Litigation over this year's proposed action could lead to another suit in 2004, and again in 2005 and so on. California cannot afford to have the backbone water supply for much of this state's economy under constant litigation."
The Quantification Settlement Agreement is a set of agreements among four California water agencies that help California reduce its over-reliance on the Colorado River. California has historically drawn more than its 4.4 million acre-foot basic annual apportionment of Colorado River water, last year taking approximately 5.3 million acre-feet. Under the QSA, the agencies will implement eight core, long-term water transfer and supply agreements that will shift up to 36 million acre-feet from agricultural use to urban use over the life of the agreement.
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 nearly 3 million residents.
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