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Jim Madaffer-Vice Chair Colorado River Board of California-Colorado River

California Water Agencies Submit Colorado River Modeling Framework to Bureau of Reclamation

California water agencies that rely on the Colorado River on January 31, proposed a modeling framework for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate as it considers actions to help stabilize reservoir elevations and protect critical infrastructure to ensure the Colorado River system can continue to support 40 million people, nearly 6 million acres of agriculture, and Tribes across seven states and portions of Mexico.

The modeling framework outlines a constructive approach to achieve additional water use reductions while protecting infrastructure, prioritizing public health and safety, and upholding the existing body of laws, compacts, decrees, and agreements that govern Colorado River operations (known collectively as the Law of the River). The approach builds on the California agencies’ commitments announced last fall to voluntarily conserve an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water each year through 2026 to protect storage in Lake Mead and help stabilize the Colorado River reservoir system.

California’s proposed framework

California’s proposed framework seeks to protect Lake Mead elevation of 1,000 feet and Lake Powell elevation of 3,500 feet by modifying some parameters governing reservoir operations, maximizing the impact of existing plans and voluntary conservation actions, and increasing cutbacks if Lake Mead elevations decline. It also protects baseline water needs of communities across the West by prioritizing water supplies for human health and safety. The proposal was carefully developed to enable workable phased water use reductions and ensures protection of adequate water volumes in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

“The alternative provides a realistic and implementable framework to address reduced inflows and declining reservoir elevations by building on voluntary agreements and past collaborative efforts in order to minimize implementation delays. California’s alternative protects critical elevations and uses adaptive management to protect critical reservoir elevations through the interim period,” JB Hamby, chair of Colorado River Board of California and California’s Colorado River Commissioner, wrote in a transmittal letter to Reclamation.

The approach differs from a modeling proposal submitted to Reclamation on January 30 by the six other basin states. The six-state proposal would direct the majority of water use reductions needed in the Lower Basin to California water users through a new apportionment method based on “system and evaporative losses.” The proposal directly conflicts with the existing Law of the River and the current water rights system and mandates cutback without providing tools to manage reductions.

QSA-Colorado River-modeling framework-USBR

In October 2003, the San Diego County Water Authority, Coachella Valley Water District, Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, State of California and U.S. Department of the Interior completed a historic set of agreements to conserve and transfer Colorado River water.

Shared process to update guidelines

For the past several months, California water users have sought a timely, practical and implementable solution with other Lower Basin users that can be implemented over the next three years to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead while longer-term changes are negotiated to update 2007 Interim Guidelines that will expire at the end of 2026. Suggestions to fundamentally change the Law of River are appropriately addressed through this shared process to update the guidelines.

California’s water agencies remain committed to working with all Colorado River basin states to take urgent, fair, and achievable action now to avoid unacceptable risks to communities, farms and economies in California and the rest of the basin.

For decades, California has been a leader in managing its Colorado River water resources and collaborating in basin-wide efforts to more effectively operate and manage the reservoir system and to incentivize water conservation as demands have increased in the face of shrinking supplies due to climate change.

In 2003, California permanently reduced its use of Colorado River water from about 5.2 million acre-feet annually to its basic apportionment of 4.4 million acre-feet, a permanent annual reduction in water use of about 800,000 acre-feet. The reduction in use resulted from implementing a combination of agricultural and urban conservation activities.

Since 2003, water users in California have taken significant actions to conserve Colorado River water, adding over 1.5 million acre-feet and 20 feet of elevation of conserved water to Lake Mead since 2007. California water users committed to further conservation to bolster storage in Lake Mead through the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan. California has invested billions of dollars in urban and agricultural conservation across Southern California, through programs that reach virtually every Colorado River water user in the state.

California has “done its part” and “willing to do more”

“Twenty years ago, California adopted the largest water conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history that not only supports the bulk of our nation’s food system but also sustains the environment. This multi-billion-dollar conservation-focused framework – the Quantification Settlement Agreement – is the blueprint for other states to follow. California has done its part and is willing to do more, but it’s time for the other states to step up and create their own conservation programs that sustain the quality of life in their communities,” said Jim Madaffer, vice chair of the Colorado River Board of California, representing the San Diego County Water Authority.

“We can help the entire Southwest”

“For over 20 years, Metropolitan has met the challenge of reducing our use of Colorado River water, and we are committed to doing more now. But we must do it in a way that does not harm half of the people who rely on the river – the 19 million people of Southern California. We must do it in a way that does not devastate our $1.6 trillion economy, an economic engine for the entire United States. We must do it in a way that can be quickly implemented, adding water to lakes Mead and Powell without getting mired in lengthy legal battles. We must do it in a way that maintains and strengthens partnerships on the river, allowing us to work together to build longer term solutions. The proposal presented today by California does all of this by equitably sharing the risk among Basin states without adversely affecting any one agency or state. The plan presented yesterday, which shut out California, does not. California knows how to permanently reduce use of the river – we have done it over the past 20 years, through billions of dollars in investments and hard-earned partnerships. We can help the entire Southwest do it again as we move forward,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“Balanced and implementable plan to address monumental challenges”

“The Colorado River – Imperial Valley’s only source of water – supports far more than our rural disadvantaged community as it provides for a robust agricultural industry that feeds millions of people and provides food security for this nation. California, and particularly the Imperial Irrigation District, is working to be part of the solution, however we also believe in upholding the Law of the River and not shouldering the burden of supply limitations for states and agencies that have outgrown their water rights. California has spent the past two decades successfully working together to resolve intra-state supply and demand imbalances to sustain the Colorado River. Since the signing of the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the largest ag-to-urban water conservation and transfer agreement in U.S. history, IID’s water management programs have generated over 7.2 million acre-feet in support of the Colorado River system. Today, IID and its California partners have proposed a balanced and implementable plan that begins to address the monumental challenges we face with the ongoing Colorado River drought,” said Henry Martinez, general manager, Imperial Irrigation District.

“Committed to reaching a 7-basin state consensus”

“Historically, CVWD and our agricultural community have invested heavily in its irrigation delivery system to minimize water loss, including canal lining projects, a closed pipe irrigation distribution system and installing drip irrigation. We have prioritized the efficient use of Colorado River water over the long term. We also took action last year with other California agencies to voluntarily identify a collection of Colorado River water conservation and reduction actions to save 400,000 acre-feet annually through 2026. We support our California partners and are committed to reaching a 7-basin state consensus on a framework for additional water use reductions through 2026,” said Jim Barrett, general manager, Coachella Valley Water District.

“Part of the solution”

“One-hundred and forty-six years ago, the original developers of our Palo Verde Valley filed and were granted the very first water rights to Colorado River water. Secured by those rights, farmers and farm workers have invested multiple generations of farm loans and hard work to produce food and fiber for consumers. Surrounding our agriculture are small rural cities that depend exclusively upon Colorado River water for their domestic supply. Farmers and landowners in Palo Verde Irrigation District want to be part of a solution to the current mismatch of supply and demand on the River in a manner that honors existing Public Law, and Administrative Law,” said Bart Fisher, president, Palo Verde Irrigation District Board of Trustees.

Quechan Tribe: “Stewards of the River”

“The Colorado River has been the lifeblood of the Quechan people since time immemorial, and we have a deep and abiding responsibility to be good stewards of the River – for the Tribe and its members, for the species and ecosystems that it sustains, and for the benefit of our fellow tribes and non-Indian neighbors throughout the Basin. It is why we have always fought for and will continue to defend our water. The modeling proposal submitted by the State of California to the Bureau of Reclamation for inclusion as part of its development of the SEIS reflects a meaningful effort to address the hydrologic challenges facing the Basin while respecting the senior water rights of the Tribe and others and ensuring that the Colorado can continue to exist as a living river,” said Quechan Tribal Council President Jordan Joaquin.

Colorado River Board of California

Established in 1937, CRB consists of agency representatives from the Water Authority, IID, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Coachella Valley Water District, Palo Verde Irrigation District, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Additional representatives include the directors of the California Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with two public representatives.

Seven counties in Southern California receive water and hydroelectric energy from the Colorado River. Colorado River water is used for drinking water by over 19 million people in Southern California and irrigates over 600,000 acres of agricultural lands that produce fruits, vegetables,and other crops that help feed our nation’s families.

(Editor’s Note: Jim Madaffer has been the San Diego County Water Authority’s CRB representative since 2019, and is serving a four-year term as vice chair following his election on January 11 during the CRB meeting in Ontario, Calif. He joined the Water Authority Board in November 2012 representing the City of San Diego and served a term as Board Chair.)

Read more about the Colorado River:

The River’s Changing Math

Predicting the amount of water the Colorado River can provide in a given year has always been a challenge. The river’s flow is famously erratic, dictated by the size of the often-fickle Rocky Mountain snowpack and other variables such as soil moisture and changes in temperature. The old expectations of the Compact signers is giving way to a new reality on the river. Over the last century, the river’s flows in the Upper Basin have dropped by 20%. Scientists have pinned warming temperatures as the main cause of the disappearing flows and predict the trend will worsen as the Upper Basin, source of most of the river’s water, becomes even hotter and drier.

California Releases Its Own Plan for Colorado River Cuts

Imperial Irrigation District responds to six-state consensus on Colorado River

California is Lone Holdout in Colorado River Cuts Proposal

In California’s Imperial Valley, Farmers Brace for a Future With Less Colorado River Water

Colorado River and Lake Mead Are Rising, but Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Saving San Diego’s Rain for a Non-Rainy Day

“I love the rain,” the Encinitas woman said as she walked through her backyard. “Anytime it rains I get excited about my plants.”

Robin Reid-Anderson has dedicated years to creating a backyard that’s sustainable in San Diego’s dry Mediterranean environment.

Water Authority Board Welcomes Seven New Directors

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors welcomed seven new members from across the region at its first regular Board meeting of the year on January 26, expanding the agency’s leadership and policy making skills during a critical period for water in the West.

Each of the Water Authority’s 24 retail member agencies are represented by at least one member of the 36-member Board of Directors, which sets the Water Authority’s strategic direction.

Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside Reps Begin Terms on Regional Water Board

Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside representatives on the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors are among seven new members who participated in their first formal meeting Jan. 26.

Encinitas Deputy Mayor Joy Lyndes, Carlsbad Councilwoman Teresa Acosta and Oceanside Water Utilities Director Lindsay Leahy are part of the Water Authority’s 24 retail member agencies, which are represented by at least one member of the 36-member Board of Directors, according to a Jan. 27 agency news release.

San Diego County Water Authority And its 24 Member Agencies

Water Authority Board Welcomes Seven New Directors

January 27, 2023 – The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors welcomed seven new members from across the region at its first regular Board meeting of the year on January 26, expanding the agency’s leadership and policy making skills during a critical period for water in the West.

Each of the Water Authority’s 24 retail member agencies are represented by at least one member of the 36-member Board of Directors, which sets the Water Authority’s strategic direction. The Water Authority provides wholesale water supplies that sustains 3.3 million people and a $268 billion regional economy, in coordination with its member agencies.

“Our new directors bring qualifications and experience that will expand our capacity and provide diverse perspectives about the complex issues we face,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz. “We will all benefit from these experienced leaders who have proven skills in a wide variety of business and public agencies.”

New Water Authority Board members are:

  • Teresa Acosta, Carlsbad city councilmember, representing Carlsbad Municipal Water District – Water Authority committees: Administrative and Finance, Water Planning and Environmental
  • Clint Baze, Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District general managerrepresenting Rincon Del Diablo MWD – Water Authority committees: Administrative and Finance, Water Planning and Environmental
  • Steve Castaneda, South Bay Irrigation District board memberrepresenting South Bay Irrigation District – Water Authority committees: Engineering and Operations, Imported Water
  • Lindsay Leahy, Oceanside Water Utilities director, representing City of Oceanside – Water Authority committees: Legislation and Public Outreach, Water Planning and Environmental
  • Joy Lyndes, City of Encinitas councilmember and deputy mayor, representing San Dieguito Water District – Water Authority committees: Legislation and Public Outreach, Water Planning and Environmental
  • Kyle Swanson, Padre Dam Municipal Water District CEO/general manager, representing Padre Dam MWD – Water Authority committees: Administrative and Finance, Legislation and Public Outreach
  • Ditas Yamane, National City councilmember, representing City of National City – Water Authority committees: Engineering and Operations, Water Planning and Environmental

The Board generally holds its regular meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month, with special workshops and other meetings as needed. Board members serve on committees and special work groups and are also appointed to represent the Water Authority on the boards or committees of other agencies and government organizations.

The public is invited to attend monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. To learn more about Water Authority Board members and meetings, go to: www.sdcwa.org/about-us/board-of-directors/

Water Authority Welcomes New MWD Board Chair Adán Ortega

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today welcomed Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board Chair Adán Ortega, Jr. by hosting a reception for him to meet San Diego County’s community, civic and business leaders.

Ortega took the helm of  MWD’s Board on January 10 as the first Latino chair in the district’s 95-year history. In a presentation during the Water Authority’s formal Board meeting, Ortega focused on shared challenges and opportunities the two water wholesalers face in the era of climate change.

State Water Project to Boost Deliveries from 5% to 30% of Normal After Rains

California’s giant State Water Project, the network of dams and aqueducts that provides water for 27 million people, will significantly increase deliveries in 2023 after a month of “atmospheric river” storms.

The Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that deliveries will increase from 5% of requested supplies to 30% for the water year than began Dec. 1.

Colorado River and Lake Mead Are Rising, but Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Northern California reservoirs and the Sierra snowpack were dramatically bolstered by the string of recent storms, and that’s good news for millions of people across the state.

Just not necessarily those who live in San Diego.

Water Authority Welcomes New MWD Board Chair Adán Ortega

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors on January 26 welcomed Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board Chair Adán Ortega, Jr. by hosting a reception for him to meet San Diego County’s community, civic and business leaders.

Ortega took the helm of  MWD’s Board on January 10 as the first Latino chair in the district’s 95-year history. In a presentation during the Water Authority’s formal Board meeting, Ortega focused on shared challenges and opportunities the two water wholesalers face in the era of climate change.

Water agencies together face challenging issues

“Past conflicts aside, I see the San Diego County experience as a model that Metropolitan and other water agencies will need to consider as we confront the changed climate. The San Diego region recognized earlier than many – more than 20 years ago – the need to invest in water supply and infrastructure improvements to ensure reliability,” said Ortega, who made formal comments during the Water Authority’s Board meeting. “The need for these investments has only become more urgent as the impacts of climate change undermine both Bay-Delta and Colorado River water supplies.”

Adán Ortega: “New class of water infrastructure and management”

Ortega also noted that “San Diego’s investments have come at a cost in the form of higher water rates, but the result has been protection against drought,” including the drought that has threatened water supplies across California for the past three years.

“We can’t escape the reality of increasing water rates among our member agencies and Metropolitan, just as San Diego had to do,” Ortega said. “With climate change, we need to envision a new class of water infrastructure and management. San Diego’s leaders and ratepayers have reckoned with rate increases to keep water flowing even with critical shortages in traditional sources of water. That’s the definition of resiliency.”

Ortega has represented the City of San Fernando on the MWD board since March 2021. He is the principal at Ortega Strategies group, a public and government relations firm based in Fullerton, and he served as Metropolitan’s vice president of external affairs from 1999 to 2005. Before representing San Fernando, he served as the City of Fullerton’s representative on the MWD Board.

As chair, Ortega said he places a strong emphasis on agency ethics and the values of diversity, equity and inclusion for Metropolitan’s board and staff. He has appointed the most diverse leadership slate in MWD’s history, including appointment of leadership positions to three of the Water Authority’s four delegates including a board vice chair and chairmanship of the agency’s finance committee. The Water Authority fourth delegate – Lois Fong-Sakai – was recently elected by her peers to serve as MWD Board secretary and parliamentarian.

“Proven consensus builder”

“With decades of experience in government service, Adán is a proven consensus builder who is ideally suited to lead Metropolitan’s diverse 26 member agencies during a period of historic transitions impacting water supply and the environment both in MWD’s service area and the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz.

The Water Authority relies on MWD for about 13% of its water supplies, along with transporting water through the Colorado River Aqueduct to San Diego County. The Water Authority and MWD are working together on critical issues of drought and water supply planning as well as daily coordination of water deliveries.

“Water challenges in the West will continue to grow,” said Katz, “but I am confident that working together with MWD and its member agencies we can meet the needs of Southern California for generations to come.”

Tijuana Running Out of Water, Turns to California for Help

As of Friday morning, more than 600 colonias were without running water in Tijuana and Rosarito, where residents say service has been spotty since last year.

Facing the possibility of running out of water, Tijuana’s State Commission for Public Services, CESPT, turned to the San Diego County Water Authority for help.

Agreements in place between Mexico and the United States allow for water deliveries in times of emergency or severe drought.