U.S. Water News Online
SAN DIEGO -- A water conservation and transfer program between San Diego and the Imperial Valley would benefit all of California, the San Diego County Water Authority's chairwoman said at a recent State Senate hearing.
The Authority, which provides water to more than 2.6 million San Diego County residents, has negotiated draft terms of an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to buy water that has been conserved by Imperial Valley farmers, Authority Chairwoman Christine M. Frahm told the Senate Agriculture and Water Resources Committee.
Frahm said the water transfer agreement, if approved by the Authority and IID, will provide several benefits. The agreement will:
Water transfers between willing buyers and sellers represent a particularly advantageous way to help solve California's water supply problems, Frahm said.
"Water is a finite and precious natural resource," she said. "We must use it as efficiently as possible, especially those of us in Southern California. Water transfers promote this kind of wise water use. That's why California law allows and encourages water transfers."
Frahm also noted that U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, whose department administers the Colorado River, has stated clearly that California must develop and implement an enforceable plan to live within its Colorado River entitlement.
If the Authority and IID finalize their water transfer agreement, the Authority still must arrange to move the water from the Colorado River to San Diego County.
Frahm said the Authority would prefer to use the Metropolitan Water District's (MWD) Colorado River Aqueduct, the only existing connection between the river and coastal Southern California. The Authority would pay MWD to deliver -- or wheel -- the water through the aqueduct.
"As MWD's largest customer, the San Diego County Water Authority has been paying for the aqueduct for 50 years," Frahm said. "Moreover, there will be idle capacity in the aqueduct to deliver the water for us."
The Authority has been negotiating with MWD toward an agreement that would allow the Authority to wheel transfer water through the Colorado River Aqueduct.
MWD recently advanced a "wheeling concept" that includes neither a set price nor a credit to the Authority for the regional benefit provided by the transfer water, MWD previously acknowledged that the additional water provided by a San Diego Imperial Valley water transfer would benefit all of coastal Southern California.
In its new proposal, however, MWD would not begin giving the Authority a credit for this regional benefit until 2010, even if the Authority has a transfer agreement with IID or another agency in place earlier.
"MWD's wheeling concept is not a solution to our negotiations, or to the water supply problems facing Southern California." Frahm said.
She said Metropolitan pays about $26 million per year to convey 1.2 million acre-feet through the Colorado River Aqueduct.
"But they want to charge us $52 million per year to wheel 200,000 acre-feet, which would use just 15 percent of the aqueduct's capacity," Frahm said.
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