Brian Indrelunas • The Desert Sun • September 24, 2010
Imperial Irrigation District announced this week that it would release water into the Salton Sea ahead of
But the plans have come under fire from a Southland water agency that receives IID's unused water.
The district sends water into the Sea to offset the agricultural runoff that's lost when Imperial Valley
fields lie fallow.
By the end of the year, IID plans to release not just the 35,000 acre-feet required for 2010 but also
another 41,250 acre-feet that will be required next year and in the first half of 2012.
“We're just releasing it early,” district spokesman Kevin Kelley said.
IID pays farmers to leave their land unfarmed, which frees up water that is sent to either the Coachella
Valley Water District or the San Diego County Water Authority as part of a 2003 set of Colorado River
water-sharing pacts known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement.
But fallowing also reduces the amount of water that reaches the Salton Sea.
“For every two buckets of water that IID transfers, it has to generate another bucket of water to mitigate the impacts of that water on the Salton Sea,” Kelley said.
Metropolitan Water District will officially contest the plans next week, said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general
manager of the Los Angeles-area district.
“We think it's neither appropriate nor legal,” he said.
Metropolitan Water District receives Colorado River water left over after IID and other districts' use.
“Metropolitan agreed to go last but get all the unused water,” Kightlinger said. “That was the trade-off we made in the 1920s.”
He said that if water isn't delivered to agricultural customers, it can't be used for other purposes —
including diversion to the Salton Sea. “It is not IID's water they're planning to put into the Sea. It's
But Imperial Irrigation District officials said water delivered to the Salton Sea would not be considered
unused in the sense that requires it to be left for Metropolitan Water District.
“This is not so-called ‘unused entitlement water,'” IID General Manager Brian Brady said in remarks
prepared for a Tuesday board meeting. “Rather, it is entitlement water available to IID that we have
determined can and should be used in this way as an appropriate and prudent response to uncertainty
surrounding the QSA litigation.”
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge invalidated the agreement in February