lakemeadLast week a judge approved the complex water deal between the farmers of the Imperial Valley and the cities of San Diego County — hailed as the largest sale of water from farms to cities in the nation.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly on Wednesday affirmed his tentative ruling from June, which upheld the 2003 deal between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority.
This deal comes at a time when there is growing concern over the state’s water supply.
At the Southern California Associations of Governments Regional Council Meeting on August 1st, Dr. Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency, made a presentation on California’s water supply and why it is at risk.
One of California’s most important water supplies originates high in the Sierras, where snowmelt and rainfall fill rivers and streams that flow toward the heart of the system: The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In past generations, California had the foresight to build the network of dams, aqueducts and pumps that move water throughout the state. But because of political conflicts, the State is forced to rely on an unstable, 100 year-old man-made levee system to channel the water through the Delta.
This backbone system is vulnerable and incomplete, but for now continues to sustain our way of life through the Golden State: The Bay Area, The Los Angeles Basin, The San Joaquin Valley, The Inland Empire, San Diego, The Central Coast, all depend on their critical lifeline.
The Delta provides the state with about 45% of the state’s water resource. As the levees age they deteriorate and sometimes fail, allowing the fresh water to be infiltrated with salt water from the San Francisco Bay. If the delta were to be hit by an earthquake of a 6.7 or greater the entire delta could fail causing the entire delta to be infiltrated with salt water making the delta water undrinkable.
Meanwhile in the southern part of California is relying on the Colorado River water levels in the major reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which supply the Colorado River.  These two reservoirs have been falling to critical levels.
Studies by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show that demand will soon overwhelm the water supply. The first stage of water restrictions could come as soon as 2016, when Lake Mead has a one-in-three chance of slipping below the critical 1,075-foot threshold.
That’s when Nevada will have to cut its water allocation by 4 percent. Residents probably won’t notice the first round of cuts.
In recent years, the seven states that share the river – along with Mexico – have done a better job collaborating on ways to stretch the water supply. But it still hasn’t been enough to keep the level of Lake Mead from falling.
If the water falls to 1,050 or 1,025, then Arizona will be hit the hardest with cuts to the Central Arizona. But the conversation shouldn’t focus on which communities or industries will be hit the hardest, because they are all imperiled.
Lake Mead will almost certainly fall below 1,075 feet in the near future, Mulroy said. Soon after that, life will change in Southern Nevada. Eventually, Hoover Dam will stop producing electricity, and water restrictions will change the way we live.
The state is coming up with plans to protect the Delta and will probably be on the ballot in the upcoming November election.
The Western United States has seen years of drought adding to loss of water supply, making the water issue even more critical.
The good news is that we can do something about it.
We have the tools to use the water in a more sustainable way.
The bigger questions are whether we have the time to implement those solutions.
If the water demand and drought were to continue for the next five or six years, we will start to see a rapid downward spiral, we won’t have the time to make the investments in an Imperial Irrigation District, or Palo Verde, or any of the agricultural areas down in the southern end of the system.
It is time for measures to be put in place to secure our water future.

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