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Arizona, Nevada Cuts To Colorado River Water Negligible

Arizona and Nevada will face their first-ever cuts in Colorado River water next year, but the changes aren’t expected to be overly burdensome for either state. The water is delivered through Lake Mead, one of the largest manmade reservoirs in the country that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Thursday that Lake Mead barely will fall below 1,090 feet (332 meters) on Jan. 1, triggering cuts for the junior users in the river’s lower basin, at 1,089.4 (332 meters) above sea level. For Arizona, that means less water for underground storage, recharging aquifers and for agricultural use. About 7% of its 2.8 million acre-feet, or 192,000 acre-feet, will be left behind Lake Mead.

Wet Winter Doesn’t End Climate Change Risk To Colorado River

Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. But the wet weather can be misleading.

Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter.

“It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward,” James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year. “You can put an ice cube — even an excellent ice cube — in a cup of hot coffee, but eventually it’s going to disappear.”

All-American Canal

Study to Explore New Regional Water Conveyance System

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors last week approved a contract to study the viability of a new regional water conveyance system that would deliver water from the Colorado River to San Diego County and provide multiple benefits across the Southwest.

The $1.9 million contract was awarded to Black & Veatch Corporation for a two-phase study. The engineering firm conducted similar studies for the Water Authority dating back to 1996 but looked at “single use” in those studies.

“A regional system to move our independent Colorado River supplies from the Imperial Valley directly to San Diego County could be more cost-effective, while also providing multiple benefits for California and the Southwest,” said Kelly Rodgers, director of the Water Authority’s Colorado River Program. “The study will assess the potential for new regional and public-private partnerships and funding opportunities.”

Three potential pipeline routes studied

The Water Authority currently pays the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to transport Quantification Settlement Agreement water through the Colorado River Aqueduct to San Diego.

The pipeline under study would be designed at a capacity to convey the QSA water, which in 2021 will reach its full amount of 280,000 acre-feet of water annually. The current Water Transfer Agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the Water Authority continues to 2047. But both agencies can agree to extend the transfer another 30 years to 2077.

Three potential routes for the pipeline will be considered as part of an initial screening of the alternatives during the first phase of the study. The study will also consider elements such as permit and environmental regulations, and risk, cost and economic analysis.

Phase 1 of regional water system study will take one year

The first phase of the study, projected to cost $1.3 million, is expected to be completed in summer 2020. The Board will then determine whether to go forward with phase 2 of the study.

Pending Board approval, the second phase will include the final screening of alternatives based on refinement of site layouts, pipeline alignment and tunneling requirements, and risk, cost and economic analysis. The second phase will cost $590,00 and is expected to take one year to complete.

The Board previously approved funds for this study at its June 27 meeting.

Map indicates three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Conveyance routes would connect to All-American Canal

As the study gets underway, there are three routes under consideration. Each of those routes would connect to the tail end of the All-American Canal where it meets the Westside Main Canal in the southwest corner of the Imperial Valley.

Two of the routes would follow a southern corridor between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, with one route over the mountains paralleling the U.S./Mexico border and the other tunneling through the mountains. Both routes would end at the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside.

The third and northernmost route would follow the Westside Main Canal toward the Salton Sea, then flow past Borrego Springs, and through the mountains. It would eventually connect to the Water Authority’s Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Marcos.

The pipeline system is one of a handful of visionary ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

As Southwest Water Managers Grapple With Climate Change, Can A ‘Grand Bargain’ Work?

Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique moment. With a temporary fix to the river’s scarcity problem recently completed, talk has begun to turn toward future agreements to manage the water source for 40 million people in the southwestern U.S.

Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.

As Southwest Water Managers Grapple With Climate Change, Can A ‘Grand Bargain’ Work?

Climate change, growing urban populations and fragile rural economies are top of mind. Some within the basin see a window of opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in the watershed. Others say the best path forward is to take small, incremental steps toward lofty goals, a method Colorado River managers say has worked well for them for decades.

OPINION: Believe It or Not, Colorado Will Soon Become a Waterless Desert… Part Eight

Based on two weeks of research into the probable future of water supplies in the American West, it’s pretty clear that no water expert or journalist truly believes Colorado is likely to become a lifeless, waterless desert, within the lifetime of anyone currently alive.

San Diego Water Authority’s Jim Madaffer Named To Colorado River Board

Jim Madaffer of the San Diego County Water Authority has been named to the Colorado River Board of California, which represents the state in talks with other states and federal agencies regarding management of the Colorado River. The appointment was announced Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. Madaffer, 59, is a former San Diego councilman who has been president of Madaffer Enterprises since 2009. Now the chair of the county Water Authority board of directors, he’s a former Jerry Brown appointee to the California Transportation Commission, but resigned in January after becoming chair of the water authority.

Report credits San Diego County Water Authority for providing regional water solutions which include storing water in Lake Mead. Photo: National Park Service

San Diego County Quality of Life Indicators Mostly Positive in 2018

A report released today showed improvement in 2018 for the majority of 15 indicators used to measure San Diego County’s quality of life. The Equinox Project Quality of Life Dashboard measures and benchmarks several environmental and economic trends throughout the region.

The analysis highlighted the San Diego County Water Authority for developing water solutions for San Diego and the Southwest using a “portfolio approach.” One of the initiatives under that approach includes efforts to store water in Lake Mead on the Colorado River, which would benefit both San Diego County residents and many other river users.

San Diego County's water supply has diversified significantly over the last couple of decades.. Source: San Diego County Water Authority

San Diego County’s water supply has diversified significantly over the last couple of decades. Source: San Diego County Water Authority

The nonpartisan Equinox Project report is a source of public policy research and analysis to guide policymakers, planners and other officials, said Emily Young, executive director of The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego, where the project is based.

Water use increased in 2018

“There’s no one indicator when you’re talking our quality of life in the San Diego region,” Young said. “And in fact, the whole point is all of these things are connected. If you’re talking about air quality, you really can’t talk about that if you’re not also talking about our transportation systems and the pollution generated from them.

“Whether we’re looking at an issue like water, which is very precious to the San Diego region, or other issues around transportation or housing, all of these are things that we’re measuring our progress on,” said Young.

Per capita water use in San Diego County

*This data includes agricultural water use served by local water agencies.
In 2018, National City had the lowest municipal and industrial (M&I) water use at 78 gallons per capita daily. Yuima’s high per capita M&I potable water use occurs because a large amount of water used for horticultural irrigation is classified as M&I, and the district services a small population (less than 2,000 people). Data Source: San Diego County Water Authority

Measuring quality of life

Six of the 15 indicators received a “thumbs-up” in the report, including air quality, electricity use and renewable energy. Four indicators, including water use, received a “thumbs-down.”

“Daily residential water consumption in San Diego County increased by 8.3% from 84 gallons per capita in 2017 to 91 gallons in 2018,” according to the report. “Water use has increased since the statewide water restrictions were lifted in 2017, though below pre-drought levels.”

*Sweetwater Authority is comprised of the South Bay Irrigation District and National City. The dataset excludes the City of Del Mar, the City of Oceanside, Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and the Yuima Municipal Water District.
In Q4 of 2018, residents in the Sweetwater Authority area (National City and South Bay) had the lowest residential water use in San Diego County. Santa Fe Irrigation District used 363 gallons per capita/day, the most water per capita in San Diego County. Data Source: State Water Resources Control Board, Urban Water Supplier Report, 2019

Water use lower in 2019

Despite the slight increase in water use during 2018, residents continue to conserve compared to previous years.

“While extreme dry conditions contributed to increased residential water use in 2018, per capita water use was still lower than historical, pre-drought levels,” said Alexi Schnell, water resources specialist with the Water Authority. “Water use to date in 2019, a much wetter year, has been consistently lower than in 2018.

“There will always be fluctuations based on weather and other factors, but the San Diego region continues to embrace water-use efficiency, and per capita water use in the region is not forecasted to return to pre-drought levels for the foreseeable future,” Schnell added.

The report noted that “the San Diego region is making significant commitments to water efficiency and recycling” and has diversified local supply with the Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad, the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant.

On Stressed Colorado River, States Test How Many More Diversions Watershed Can Bear

The Colorado River is short on water. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. For about the last 20 years, demand for water has outstripped the supply, causing its largest reservoirs to decline. In the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, you can pinpoint when the lines crossed somewhere around the year 2002. It’s a well-documented and widely accepted imbalance.

States Sign Short-Term Colorado River Drought Plan, But Global Warming Looms Over Long-Term Solutions

The Colorado River just got a boost that’s likely to prevent its depleted reservoirs from bottoming out, at least for the next several years. Representatives of seven Western states and the federal government signed a landmark deal on Monday laying out potential cuts in water deliveries through 2026 to reduce the risks of the river’s reservoirs hitting critically low levels. Yet even as they celebrated the deal’s completion on a terrace overlooking Hoover Dam and drought-stricken Lake Mead, state and federal water officials acknowledged that tougher negotiations lie ahead