Beureau of reclamation calls for 2-4 MAF cut in 2023.

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Very interesting...

I agree--it seems to me that the discussion needs to occur at the state to state level, not one irrigation district in one state shouting at another. Later, once the cuts are agreed on for each state, the governors can squabble with the users in each state to figure out who loses the game of musical chairs.

As for the idea of saving the Salton Sea vs. Lake Mead, that seems like a no-brainer to me. Worth considering that both are manmade, one by accident, the other deliberately. One has value to multiple users in several states, while the other is just sort of a stinking salt sink.

To give you an order of magnitude of who the largest users in the Lower Basin were in 2021, here they are:

Imperial Irrigation District (CA) - 2.56 maf
Central Arizona Project (AZ) - 1.36 maf
MWD of Southern California (CA) - 1.08 maf
Griffith Water Project (NV) - 0.45 maf (less a return flow of 0.23 maf via Las Vegas Wash)
Palo Verde Irrigation District (CA) - 0.37 maf
Coachella Valley Water District (CA) - 0.35 maf
Welton-Mohawk IDD (AZ) - 0.26 maf
Yuma County Water Users Association (AZ) - 0.25 maf

If these are the main players at the table, and they just represent their own interests, nothing is going to get done. But if the state leaders intervene, then you might get somewhere...
 

DVexile

New Member
The “stinking salt sink” is a critical migratory bird habitat. Sure, it is an accident but it is an accident that covers for enormous human caused habitat loss elsewhere in the area. So yeah, if you rank drunk people on Sea-Doos over wildlife being pinched from its habitat then it is a no brainer. Not everyone’s brain measures utility the same way though. And some of that different thinking is codified in habitat protection laws and regulations that are going to tilt the balance more towards the Salton Sea than one might at first expect.

EDIT: To be clear, “drunk people on Sea-Doos” is tongue in cheek - Lake Mead of course also generates power, provides city and agricultural water and so forth!
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
The “stinking salt sink” is a critical migratory bird habitat. Sure, it is an accident but it is an accident that covers for enormous human caused habitat loss elsewhere in the area. So yeah, if you rank drunk people on Sea-Doos over wildlife being pinched from its habitat then it is a no brainer. Not everyone’s brain measures utility the same way though. And some of that different thinking is codified in habitat protection laws and regulations that are going to tilt the balance more towards the Salton Sea than one might at first expect.
Fair enough.
 

DVexile

New Member
Very interesting...

I agree--it seems to me that the discussion needs to occur at the state to state level, not one irrigation district in one state shouting at another. Later, once the cuts are agreed on for each state, the governors can squabble with the users in each state to figure out who loses the game of musical chairs.

As for the idea of saving the Salton Sea vs. Lake Mead, that seems like a no-brainer to me. Worth considering that both are manmade, one by accident, the other deliberately. One has value to multiple users in several states, while the other is just sort of a stinking salt sink.

To give you an order of magnitude of who the largest users in the Lower Basin were in 2021, here they are:

Imperial Irrigation District (CA) - 2.56 maf
Central Arizona Project (AZ) - 1.36 maf
MWD of Southern California (CA) - 1.08 maf
Griffith Water Project (NV) - 0.45 maf (less a return flow of 0.23 maf via Las Vegas Wash)
Palo Verde Irrigation District (CA) - 0.37 maf
Coachella Valley Water District (CA) - 0.35 maf
Welton-Mohawk IDD (AZ) - 0.26 maf
Yuma County Water Users Association (AZ) - 0.25 maf

If these are the main players at the table, and they just represent their own interests, nothing is going to get done. But if the state leaders intervene, then you might get somewhere...

Thanks as usual for anchoring the discussion with actual numbers!

Do you know if the IID 2.56 maf number is just the water actually used inside the IID or does it also include the parts of their allocation that they sell to urban districts as well?
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Thanks as usual for anchoring the discussion with actual numbers!

Do you know if the IID 2.56 maf number is just the water actually used inside the IID or does it also include the parts of their allocation that they sell to urban districts as well?
That 2.56 maf number is just their actual net use in 2021--direct diversion plus a small amount to them from Warren Brock Reservoir, less their measured returns. That number varies slightly from year to year.

In some years, they actually deliver some water to the Salton Sea for habitat mitigation purposes. That didn't happen in 2021.

Just to give you a recent idea of how their use varies each year, here it is:

2015 - 2.48 maf (+0.15 maf transferred to SDCWA for Salton Sea mitigation)
2016 - 2.50 maf (+0.13 maf to SDCWA)
2017 - 2.55 maf (+0.10 maf to SDCWA)
2018 - 2.62 maf (+0.0001 maf to SDCWA)
2019 - 2.56 maf (no measurable diversion to SDCWA)
2020 - 2.49 maf (no diversion to SDCWA)
2021 - 2.56 maf (no diversion to SDCWA)

In recent years, the IID hasn't used anywhere near the 3.1 maf it used in the early 2000s. That's probably at the heart of their argument that they've "already cut back"... but the fact is that they need to do more, as the largest user of water in the system...
 

Dangling Dooley

Active Member
JFR...surely you can free up the next 20 years or so!
I agree. JFR for president of the Colorado River section of BoR. I'm sure all the CO River states would love someone in California telling them how much water they can use. :ROFLMAO:

Seriously though, I really enjoy reading your posts @JFRCalifornia. I'm not posting on here as much because I've been busy moving to San Diego (Alpine, CA), but I always set aside enough time to read your essays to gain a better understanding. I hope I run into you someday for an autograph.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I appreciate the nice words and the offer of gainful employment at BOR. And as you say, as a non-engineer from California who is in the environmental business, I'm uniquely qualified to get yelled at a lot and told I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm also good at ducking when things are thrown.

And my autograph is worth slightly less than a signed Sandy Koufax rookie card.
 

The Oracle

Active Member
I L-O-V-E this... "States, get your act together or we (i.e., Bureau of Reclamation) will get it together for you!" I do not condone paying farmers to fallow crops, but I do condone utilizing water for more water-efficient crops as a function of assimilation efficiency to humans (i.e., growing alfalfa for cattle isn't it). Growing crops for direct human consumption is "it".
 

ndscott50

Active Member
So this is interesting. The upper basin is claiming that we have already reduced consumptive use by one million acre feet in the last year. From 4.5 million to 3.5 million acre feet. This would mean that the upper basin is at 3.5, while the lower basin, including Mexico is close to 10. If this is the case the upper basin states are not going to agree to any additional cuts.

 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
So this is interesting. The upper basin is claiming that we have already reduced consumptive use by one million acre feet in the last year. From 4.5 million to 3.5 million acre feet. This would mean that the upper basin is at 3.5, while the lower basin, including Mexico is close to 10. If this is the case the upper basin states are not going to agree to any additional cuts.

Yes, interesting for sure, but let's not accept those new numbers from the Upper Colorado River Commission on their face. Not just yet.

I can't find the new data they are referring to that shows Upper Basin use dropped to 3.5 maf in 2021, but in any case, they might be trying a little bit of sleight of hand here. When they refer to "evaporation" as part of the Upper Basin's total use, well, that's referring to evaporation lost primarily in Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge, which on average from 2016-20 was collectively 0.47 maf. That's not really Upper Basin use at all, but just water lost to the system. The Upper Basin is clearly trying to make a case the their use is more than it really is, so that if they have to cut back, the baseline is higher. Disingenuous and misleading, in my opinion.

According to BOR, here was actual Upper Basin water use from 2016-20, the last official numbers reported:

2016 - 3.89 maf
2017 - 4.16 maf
2018 - 4.30 maf
2019 - 4.18 maf
2020 - 4.21 maf

Average 2016-20 - 4.15 maf

For each year, the number includes roughly 0.24 maf of evaporation from small reservoirs within the Upper Basin distribution system, which arguably is not actually water use, but the BOR charitably reports this as part of the consumption numbers. The inclusion of the mainstream reservoirs below the diversion points (Powell, Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa, Morrow Point) is explicitly NOT included in the Upper Basin consumptive use numbers by BOR. As noted above, that amounts to an average of 0.47 maf each year.

So it strains believability that the Upper Basin somehow suddenly found a way to reduce their use to 3.5 maf, especially if they are counting the mainstream reservoir evaporation as part of that number. Also notable: the Upper Colorado River Commission reports that 2020 water use was 4.5 maf. This is contradicted by the February 2022 BOR report that says the Upper Basin consumed 4.21 maf in 2020, without counting the mainstream reservoir evaporation. And that number includes a tiny portion of Arizona technically in the Upper Basin. Their average annual use amounts to about 26,000 AF.

I'd like to see the new UCRC data and make sure nobody is fudging anything here.

Seems to me that the baseline for water use reduction should be the average use from 2016-20, which for the Upper Basin is 4.15 maf, as reported by BOR. A 25% reduction from that would be 3.11 maf--and it shouldn't include evaporation from the mainstream reservoirs. That should be the goal for the Upper Basin if we're talking about a 25% cut.
 

ndscott50

Active Member
On the surface the idea that all users should take an even cut makes sense. The problem with that is that it perpetuates the absurdity that is the Imperial Irrigation District using 2.56 maf of water a year. Based on the numbers I could find the Imperial Valley produces around $1.5 billion of agricultural products per year. That is only 3% of California’s total $49 billion per year of agricultural output. Only 180,000 people live there. To generate this relatively insignificant amount of agricultural products the Imperial Valley Irrigation District uses the following amounts of water relative to whole states.

  • 10 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Nevada
  • 6 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Wyoming
  • 2.5 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Utah
  • 12 percent more Colorado River Water as Colorado
  • The same amount of Colorado River water as Arizona
Another way to look at it would be to compare the Imperial Valley to Weld County Colorado. Weld County uses approximately 400,000 acre feet of water (from the Colorado and the Platte) to generate essentially the same agricultural output as the Imperial Valley.

At some point the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few. In what way is it reasonable that the Imperial Valley Irrigation District gets more from the Colorado then the entire state of Colorado? Its time to end this. California should invoke eminent domain and reduce Imperial Valley Water usage to no more than 1 million acre feet.
 

Colorado Expat

Well-Known Member
Another ramification of all this is the projected water levels for Lake Powell in the BOR's June 24-month study that was just released.

They project the lake steadily falling to 3505 by April 2023, and to 3503 by March 2024. And recall that these BOR studies tend to err statistically to the optimistic side. So the lake level we are seeing right now is at or close to the highest it is going to be for the next two years, unless something very significant changes with climate in the West. Given that a third year of the dry La Nina pattern now seems to be in the offing, according to NOAA models and current ocean circulation observations, that pattern shift seems to be a ways off.

As for bringing Lake Powell back to a 3588 elevation anytime soon, it just does not look like a happening thing. At this point, recreational considerations are taking a back seat to far more pressing needs both upstream and down. Interesting times indeed.
 

LP1

Active Member
On the surface the idea that all users should take an even cut makes sense. The problem with that is that it perpetuates the absurdity that is the Imperial Irrigation District using 2.56 maf of water a year. Based on the numbers I could find the Imperial Valley produces around $1.5 billion of agricultural products per year. That is only 3% of California’s total $49 billion per year of agricultural output. Only 180,000 people live there. To generate this relatively insignificant amount of agricultural products the Imperial Valley Irrigation District uses the following amounts of water relative to whole states.

  • 10 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Nevada
  • 6 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Wyoming
  • 2.5 times the amount of Colorado River Water as Utah
  • 12 percent more Colorado River Water as Colorado
  • The same amount of Colorado River water as Arizona
Another way to look at it would be to compare the Imperial Valley to Weld County Colorado. Weld County uses approximately 400,000 acre feet of water (from the Colorado and the Platte) to generate essentially the same agricultural output as the Imperial Valley.

At some point the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few. In what way is it reasonable that the Imperial Valley Irrigation District gets more from the Colorado then the entire state of Colorado? Its time to end this. California should invoke eminent domain and reduce Imperial Valley Water usage to no more than 1 million acre feet.
One thing to note is the Imperial Valley Irrigation District controls the water rights, not the individual farmers. Farmers have a right to irrigate by virtue of owning the underlying land, but they cannot sell their irrigation rights to a neighbor or some city. That is at the heart of the problem, otherwise some agency could just go in an buy water rights and fallow the land. The IV would have find a new economy though. This thing is hard, but solvable with enough will and money.
 

flowerbug

Well-Known Member
The “stinking salt sink” is a critical migratory bird habitat. Sure, it is an accident but it is an accident that covers for enormous human caused habitat loss elsewhere in the area. So yeah, if you rank drunk people on Sea-Doos over wildlife being pinched from its habitat then it is a no brainer. Not everyone’s brain measures utility the same way though. And some of that different thinking is codified in habitat protection laws and regulations that are going to tilt the balance more towards the Salton Sea than one might at first expect.

EDIT: To be clear, “drunk people on Sea-Doos” is tongue in cheek - Lake Mead of course also generates power, provides city and agricultural water and so forth!

the other point is how much air pollution would be created by completely abandoning the Salton Sea?

if you want an example of the expense to clean up such a mess go take a look at Owens Lake (they've spent billions so far) and Mono Lake and The Great Salt Lake are now starting to kick up more air pollution. you can't just let The Great Salt lake go, Mono Lake has some protections but those have largely been soft pedaled in recent years allowing things to get worse again.
 
Top