SAN DIEGO — The Colorado River’s future took center stage Friday as water users, experts and officials came together to discuss whether California has a reliable water supply.
Topics at the final day of the three-day Urban Water Institute annual water conference included projected supply and demand issues in the coming years, the Salton Sea and the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer where Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley is sent to the coastal areas.
“It’s been very successful in that way,” he said.
Different leaders in Colorado River issues spoke Friday, like Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Anne Castle and leaders from water agencies throughout Southern California.
As part of a panel discussion involving Colorado River users, officials from agencies involved in the QSA gave their opinions on what the area would look like 25 years down the road.
“I believe there will be something like the QSA or the QSA itself. I do think that the process of getting to one has to be fair and equitable to all parties, especially the one generating the water. It could be very tumultuous, and probably lawyer-intensive, process. I do think that agriculture-to-urban water transfer, remember that this is the largest in the nation, so if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t bode well for that model going forward. Agriculture-to-urban water transfers, we heard this morning that they figure in the … plan. … If this one doesn’t work out or if it’s too costly or the resolve needed to expend, then you’re going to end up with more lawyers than you have right now.”
Imperial Irrigation District General Manager Kevin Kelley
“Obviously we’re dealing with a growing constraint on resources and more limited resources. We expect to lose Colorado River water to climate change and we will continue to grow in the lower basin. The last five years has been unprecedented in the partnerships that have evolved to try and deal with these issues. … The next step will be broadening these kinds of urban coalitions to cross basins so we start working with Denver and Albuquerque and sharing water, trying to find partnerships with more (areas) … where we can start moving those ag-to-urban and eventually start crossing the basin line and state lines in a cooperative way. I see that as inevitable. It’s going to take a while and it’s going to be a lot of uneasiness among the states, but we can do it.”
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager Jeff Kightlinger
“I think that the QSA or something very, very similar to the QSA will be in place. I have no doubt about that because I think it’s so important to Southern California and the water future of Southern California that whether it’s a voluntary agreement or something that’s been stuffed down our throats by someone there will be water transfers and something very similar will be out there. The Salton Sea … what’s your definition of restoration? That’s been a historical problem. … Until we as a society can come up with one definition and work towards that, I don’t think anything’s going to happen. So if we can’t do that, then the Salton Sea in 15 or 25 years is going to be a smaller body of water; it will be hyper-saline; and we may be dealing with dust and health issues, because nobody is able to take the initiative and step up and really work on the problem.”
Coachella Valley Water District General Manager Steve Robbins
“I think the QSA will be around. In 25 years we will be having less water in the Colorado River. All the users of the river will be really been moving a lot more aggressively toward conservation, whether that’s the ag sector or the urban sector. And the partnerships that Jeff (Kightlinger) alluded to will become a lot more prevalent. I think Metropolitan (Water District of Southern California) right now is paving the way with some creative ways of (partnering) that will become more prevalent. … So we just need to continuously talk with each other, work with each other and hope that what we’re doing right now and building on what was built before rather than taking things apart.”
San Diego County Water Authority Colorado River Program Manager Halla Razak