January 1, 2003
State Water Use
By Mark Clark, Fresno Republican
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. ]
by The Fresno Republican Newspaper.
All rights reserved.