At their September board meetings, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (“SNWA”) and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (“Metropolitan”) approved an agreement that will boost Metropolitan’s short-term water supplies. The Colorado River Commission of Nevada (“CRCN”), who is also a party to the agreement, approved it on October 13, 2015.
The agreement provides for SNWA to store 150,000 AF of unused Colorado River water off stream in Metropolitan’s system in California and makes the water available for use by Metropolitan. SNWA’s Interstate Account will be credited 125,000 AF, and 25,000 AF will be accounted as loss.
Metropolitan will pay $44.375 million—or about $296/AF for 150,000 AF.
Metropolitan will return the 125,000 AF upon SNWA’s request in future years via Intentionally Created Unused Apportionment (“ICUA”) in the Colorado River system. For the water returned, SNWA will reimburse Metropolitan its payment, escalated to account for inflation.
Under the Storage and Interstate Release Agreement (“SIRA”) and the Operation Agreement, SNWA can request that Metropolitan develop and release ICUA up to the previous year-end balance in the SNWA Interstate Account. But under this agreement, SNWA agrees to forego such requests thru 2019 and to limit them in 2020 and 2021—with an exception for during shortage conditions.
In addition, because increasing off-stream storage could increase the risk of a Lower Basin shortage, Metropolitan has agreed to terms that help protect the Lake Mead elevation. Specifically, if by 2027, Metropolitan has returned less than 75,000 AF to SNWA and Lake Mead declines to 1,045 feet or less, Metropolitan will create 50,000 AF of Intentionally Created Surplus (“ICS”) per year until the ICS and the water returned to SNWA totals 75,000 AF. Also, prior to 2027, Metropolitan will request delivery of ICS only if the Lake Mead elevation is at or above 1,080 feet.
The agreement, which is the third amendment to an Operational Agreement among the parties, builds upon existing cooperative efforts between SNWA and Metropolitan to address issues related to water supply conditions, water management flexibility, and project funding.
According to an SNWA press statement, “This cooperative partnership will not impact SNWA’s ability to meet water demands in the future. The SNWA’s long-range water resource plans reveal that banked water reserves will not be needed by Nevada within the next decade or more.”
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger also highlighted the cooperative nature of the agreement.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” Kightlinger said. “Not only will these additional Colorado River deliveries provide much-needed supplies this year, they also will allow us to keep more water in reserve should this drought continue.” He later added, “This latest program fashions an innovative way for the agencies to share water supply and cash flow, which serve the needs of both agencies today and into the future.”
Written by Marta L. Weismann