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January 1, 2003
State Water Use
Deadline Missed!
By Mark Clark, Fresno Republican Staff Writer

    FRESNO -- Efforts by water officials in Southern California failed on Tuesday to achieve a water use plan for water from the Colorado River before a midnight deadline.
     The Bush administration said it will now stop flows from the Colorado River to California cities and farms beginning in January today. This action is ther first time in American history that the federal government has imposed the penalty on water.
     Gale A. Norton, the secretary of the Department of Interior, told reporters farmers in Southern California agricultural districts get most of the water that comes from the Colorado and tht this situation contrubutes to California's chronic water shortages.
    Ronald R. Gastelum, president of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said hurried decisions made during the recent energy crisis led to an energy crisis."
     Ms. Norton's top water official, Bennett W. Raley, also indicated the talks were at a stalemate when he returned to Washington from Los Angeles.
     Raley said the Bush administration would make good on its threat to cut surplus water flows from the Colorado River to Southern California. The biggest loser will be the Metropolitan Water District, which has relied on the Colorado River for more than half of its water, but the Imperial Irrigation District also stands to loose about seven percent of its allotment.
   In El Centro, the board of the Imperial Irrigation District voted 3 to 2 to approve the revamped agreement drafted over the past several days by its lawyers. On Dec. 9, also by a 3-to-2 vote, the board had rejected an earlier version drafted in October with the cooperation of the other water agencies involved in the talks.

 [Editor's Note: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage, and other resource-management programs. Prior to 1922, when six of the seven states which have access to the Colorado River or its tributaries signed the Colorado River Compact. Tthere has been discussion about how the assets of the Colorado River should fairly allocated. An annual flow estimate in 1922 of the Colorado River system was the basis for the compact which split use of the flow of the river between the Upper and Lower Basin states. California has depended on surplus water to meet its water needs—and to supplement its basic apportionment of 4.4 million acre-feet per year. Southern California’s rights to Colorado River Water were thought to be solidified in the 1930s when a number of agencies signed water delivery contracts with the Secretary of the Interior. Contracts detailed the priorities, to use and store California's apportionment of river water. On January 16, 2001, outgoing Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signed a document establishing interim guidelines for determining when surplus Colorado River water would be available for California, Nevada and Arizona. The criteria will be in effect for 15 years, giving California a greater certainty of supply and a transition period in which to further develop water conservation, recycling, storage and transfer programs that will provide for separation from an over reliance on the Colorado River. ]

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