Colorado River states meet; have questions for California

At the September 10, 2012 meeting of Metropolitan’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee,  Manager of Colorado River Resources Bill Hasencamp briefed the committee about a meeting between the seven Colorado River states and Reclamation held recently in Las Vegas where a few important issues were discussed:

Negotiations with Mexico:  Regarding bi-national negotiations with Mexico on Colorado River issues, the question was do the states want to put forth the effort to keep working on this, especially given that the sides are quite far apart?  Yes, the states decided that they wanted to keep trying to work out issues.  Since then, further negotiations have occurred with Mexico and it appears the two sides are still quite far apart.  Mexico has asked for a break in negotiations; they understand the U.S. position and need now some time to consider options.  It appears that if any successful negotiations occur, it won’t be the comprehensive solution Metropolitan was hoping for, but instead something scaled down.  We’ll see where it is at in a month or two, Mr. Hasencamp says.

Colorado River Supply Demand Study: This study is a 3 year, $3 million effort to explore possible solutions for meeting imbalances in supply and demand on the Colorado River.  As the study draws to a close, the states want to want to be sure that recommendations are acted upon.  The states asked Reclamation to convene a implementation task force as they want to move on it while there is momentum; everyone agreed.  Also, the study, due to be released at the end of the month, has been delayed somewhat and now will be released after Thanksgiving, but prior to the Colorado River user’s conference.

Tough Questions for California:  Colorado and other upper basin states wanted to know:

  1. What is going on with the QSA?: The other states asked for an update on the QSA.  Coachella gave an update on the lawsuit, which is back in trial court now.
  2. What about Imperial Irrigation District’s overruns? IID was asked about their overruns.  Last year, IID had an overrun of 85,000 acre-feet; this year, their overrun is 140,000 acre-feet as of August.  IID says they have ramped up their fallowing programs and expect the overrun to drop significantly between now and the end of the year.  Currently, their overrun is 131,000 acre-feet.  We’ll see where they end up at the end of the year, Mr. Hasencamp said.  He also said that it is uncertain if IID is going to conserve enough to meet all of their transfer obligations this year.
  3. What is the progress of California in meeting the benchmarks of the QSA?  California is allowed access to surplus water as long as the state meets certain benchmarks stipulated when the QSA was negotiated, Mr. Hasencamp explained, and so far, California has met those benchmarks every year.  However, one of the problems with the benchmark is that it assumed a particular transfer would occur that never actually did occur; this means it is possible that this year, the benchmark could be missed.  This could take away California’s access to the surplus water until such time in the future that a benchmark is achieved.  In response, California agencies are putting together a white paper, currently in draft form, that details the situation.  Mr. Hasencamp explained the situation to the other states; initially, they were not too sympathetic, he said.  “They said, ‘we see California as putting extra water in the Salton Sea, and we see California as short on their existing transfer obligations, and now you want something from us’ … “ but in the end, they did agree to discuss it further to see if a solution can be found.  This meeting will be scheduled for later this month or early next month.

Click here to view the webcast of the meeting. Mr. Hasencamp’s presentation is item 8b.

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