Imperial Irrigation District Faces Pushback on Fallowing and Storage Proposal

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is working on a proposal between IID and the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) to increase elevation at Lake Mead through extraordinary conservation in the Imperial Valley.

Under the proposal, IID would seek to increase its Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) account from 25,000 acre-feet to 100,000 acre-feet and its cumulative ICS from 50,000 acre-feet to 200,000 acre-feet.  ICS, a type of surplus water defined under the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines, allows Colorado River contract holders to receive credit for water that is made available to the Colorado River through certain types of conservation and efficiency or through delivery of non-Colorado River water to the Colorado River.  The credit is a supply of water that those users can withdraw in the future.

To generate a supply of water to store, IID would undertake extraordinary conservation measures, which potentially includes additional fallowing.  MWD would compensate IID for the fallowing costs in return for the right to borrow from IID’s surplus during the drought.  After 5 years, the water would revert to IID.

The proposal, which is IID’s contribution to the discussions over how to keep Lake Mead from reaching the 1,075-ft. shortage trigger elevation, faces an uphill battle.  It currently is not supported by the other basin states.  IID’s Water Conservation Advisory Board has taken a stand against building elevation through fallowing.  IID Board of Directors President James C. Hanks questions why the district is not looking at storing water elsewhere in the state, wants storage to be unfettered so that it is available to cover overruns, and believes that “IID has done enough.”

Reaction from members of the public was mixed with some praise for the board for considering the proposal.  Opposition from the public came from concern that it is another water transfer and charges that the proposal was brought quickly and without sufficient public vetting.

IID staff will review the proposal with various stakeholders and bring to the board for action again at a later time.

Written by Marta Weismann and Stratecon Staff

Editor’s Note: This post was revised on 11/17/14.  The original version incorrectly attributed details of the system water pilot program—which would pay farmers in the Upper Basin $750/AF to fallow in effort to generate 18,000 AF—to the IID/MWD extraordinary conservation proposal.  We regret the error.