The midnight, January first deadline has passed and the once impending loss of Colorado River water is now a reality for California. But, with the start of flow reduction already underway a deal that could stretch the current water reduction over 15 years is still pending.
A decade-long negotiation has been in the works to assure the inhabitants of the seven states receiving water from the Colorado river get their fair share. The entire crux of the multi-state deal involving the annual allocation of some 15 million acre feet of water has now come down to the relocation of slightly more than one percent of river's flow.
California has for years used as much as five-point-two million acre feet of water annually from the Colorado River. The federal government allotment for the state under the 1922 Colorado River Compact is only four-point-four million acre feet. In an effort to assuage the ire of neighboring states and operate within guidelines, a water transfer plan was drafted which would allow California's Imperial Valley and other agriculture intensive areas to sell water to the state's southern water districts providing supplies to the burgeoning city populations. In return, farmers would be bought out by the federal government.
But, the Imperial Irrigation District had concerns about the agreement and was the only district of the four involved to reject the water transfer plan.
Shortly before the New Year, officials in the Imperial Valley drafted a different agreement which was more to their liking. The other water districts waited at the ready to sign if the deal could meet muster. An official from the Interior Department even flew to California to be on hand if the deal passed.
But, it was not to be. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California expressed concerns that this last minute deal wreaked of the problems which plagued California during the energy crisis in 1999 and 2000. Particularly problematic was the lack of a price cap on the water transferred and the ability of the Imperial district to back out of the deal in twelve months.
The current water slow down is not of immediate concern to the Metropolitan Water District which, according to officials has a two year supply of water in reserve.