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Archive for the ‘Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’ Category

A tour of Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Aqueduct system

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 20, 2013

This past weekend about 30 San Diego County inhabitants and I were guests of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) for an inspection trip to visit Hoover Dam and Colorado River Aqueduct facilities. Our tour guides were Vincent Mudd (SDCWA Director and representative to MWD’s board), Marty Hundley (MWD Inspection Trip Specialist), and Debbie Espe (SDCWA Senior Water Resources Specialist).

We assembled at SDCWA headquarters at 6:15am Friday where we were seated in the board room directors’ chairs for a brief presentation about the Water Authority, then filed onto a chartered bus to the airport, submitted to the usual TSA indignities and boarding area wait, and boarded our one-hour flight to Las Vegas. There, we rode another chartered bus to Boulder City where box lunches from The Dillinger Food and Drinkery were ready for us, and continued on to Hoover Dam. We ate our lunches in the visitor center auditorium during a speaker presentation and short film about the dam’s history. Then we began our tour.

(your smartphones won’t do these photos justice; you’ll get a much better sense of scale on a large desktop or tablet display and click the pictures for enlargements)

Hoover Dam Visitor Center, awaiting the elevator to the bottom.

Hoover Dam Visitor Center, awaiting the elevator to the bottom

Generators in the powerplant. There are nine on the Arizona wing, eight on the Nevada side.

Generators in the powerplant. There are nine on the Arizona wing, eight on the Nevada side.

Lake Mead's water level is low so reduced pressure means generators vibrate more and produce less power. A new generator design is being tested and if successful all will be replaced.

Lake Mead’s water level is low so reduced pressure means generators vibrate more and produce less power. Our guide told us a new generator designed to maintain efficiency with less water pressure is being tested and if successful, all will be replaced.

View at the bottom of the dam from the powerplant on the Arizona side.

View at the bottom of the dam from the powerplant on the Arizona side.

From the base of the dam, the power plants and the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which allows traffic on U.S. 93 to cross directly into Arizona without having to drive over the dam.

From the base of the dam, the power plants and the new Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Hoover Dam Bypass) which allows traffic on U.S. 93 to cross directly into Arizona without having to wait in a long line to drive over the dam.


Back on our bus, we backtracked a little to drive over the bypass bridge and continued southeast on U.S. 93 to Kingman, Arizona. There we turned toward the Colorado River on I-40, then SR 95, passing through Lake Havasu City (yes, we saw the London Bridge) and past Parker Dam.

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Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Water | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The unsettled water rates in San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 19, 2011

San Diego’s most recent water rate hike last March happened because the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) raised its water rate to the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) which in turn raised the water rate for county water agencies that it supplies (including the City of San Diego). San Diego, of course, typically needs to import 85-90% of its water so it doesn’t have much recourse.

As a result, the City Council reluctantly approved a “pass-through” water rate increase for City customers effective March 1 to cover the SDCWA rate hike. The Council also sought to exert some pressure on MWD.

The perceived pressure point was SDCWA’s lawsuit against MWD charging that it illegally inflates the price of water for San Diego County. The City naturally supports that position so when approving the pass-through increase the City Council asked the City Attorney to recommend whether the city should join SDCWA’s lawsuit against MWD, and also asked the Mayor’s Intergovernmental Relations Department to develop a recommendation for seeking state legislative support for auditing MWD pricing practices.

Here we must note that an underlying issue in SDCWA’s lawsuit against MWD is that in addition to buying water from MWD, SDCWA buys Colorado River water from Imperial Valley as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA). However, there are no water pipelines from Imperial Valley to San Diego so SDCWA needs to pay MWD to capture Imperial Valley’s water upstream at Lake Havasu and transport it through the Colorado River Aqueduct to San Diego’s pipelines.

MWD’s charge to transport that water (wheeling charge) is a big deal. SDCWA says MWD illegally inflates the wheeling charge with expenses unrelated to the Colorado River Aqueduct (e.g., costs associated with obtaining State Water Project water from Northern California).

The disagreement over water transport pricing is an old issue that was already evident when the QSA was enacted in 2003. The Record of Decision actually memorialized that “…MWD and SDCWA do not agree on the nature or scope of rights to the delivery, use or transfer of Colorado River water within the State of California.”.

So when MWD and SDCWA signed their agreement for transporting the water, the contract included a provision that “after conclusion of the first five years, nothing shall preclude SDCWA from contesting in an administrative or judicial forum whether such charge or charges have been set in accordance with applicable law and regulation.”

Which is exactly what SDCWA is now doing with its lawsuit.

Meanwhile, on another front around that time, MWD had been developing incentive agreements to provide rebates and subsidies for local conservation and recycled water programs. Those programs are funded through MWD’s Water Stewardship Rate fee charged to all MWD member agencies.

Here’s where MWD got tricky: in 2004 MWD adopted so-called Rate Structure Integrity (RSI) language in the Water Stewardship agreements to the effect that if a member agency “files or participates in litigation or supports legislation to challenge or modify Existing Rate Structure…Metropolitan may initiate termination of this Agreement.”

So, after MWD refused to modify its wheeling charge and SDCWA filed suit, in response MWD recently exercised its option to terminate support for some of the San Diego County programs. It partially retained a few residential and commercial agreements but decided against implementing larger agreements including funding for a San Vicente Recycling program in Ramona and a subsidy for the Poseidon Desalination Project in Carlsbad.

How would that affect the City of San Diego? At an Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) Environmental & Technical Subcommittee meeting on July 10, Cathy Pieroni, Principal Water Resources Specialist for the Public Utilities Department reported that MWD’s Water Stewardship cuts would not impact existing MWD contracts with the City and that the City could still potentially obtain MWD funding for up to $250/AF for Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) water if the Water Purification Demonstration Project materializes as a full-scale operation.

As for the City Council’s request that the City Attorney investigate possible legal action that could be taken to apply pressure on MWD over the rate hike issue, City Attorney representative Tom Zeleny said that his office will likely recommend against legal action, saying it “would probably not be cost-effective.” He said the official report from his office will be on the August agenda for the City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee.

On the issue of the Council’s request to the Mayor’s Intergovernmental Relations Department, it appears the Mayor may have influenced Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher to introduce AB 779 relating to establishment of water district oversight committees. Faced with opposition (including MWD’s considerable influence), at the last minute Fletcher pulled the bill from its scheduled hearing indicating he would make it a two-year bill and proceed later.

MWD’s opposition to Fletcher’s bill can be seen in its May 16 board meeting minutes where it revealed its suspicion that AB 779 was related to the San Diego City Council’s desire for legislative intervention over MWD water rates:

“There is speculation, however, that AB 779 might be amended and used as a legislative vehicle to assist the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) in its lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) which challenges Metropolitan’s water rates and charges. A judicial victory by SDCWA would result in a significant increase in the cost of water for Metropolitan’s customers outside SDCWA’s boundaries. The rationale for this speculation is based on a memorandum circulated by the San Diego City Council after the filing of the lawsuit that details potential parallel strategies regarding the issues addressed in the lawsuit. These strategies included seeking a Joint Legislative Audit to perform a financial audit of Metropolitan as well as sponsoring legislation to create an Independent Rate Oversight Committee for MWD to evaluate the price charged for water as well as operations.”

So for the time being AB 779 is stalled and prospects are uncertain, it doesn’t look like the City will pursue legal action, and other legislative initiatives seem iffy.

Instead, for the short term, the City will try to “absorb” the SDCWA rate increase announced for next fiscal year: Mayor Sanders has proclaimed that the City won’t raise water rates next fiscal year. Instead, he wants the Public Utilities Department (PUD) to take the hit from the higher expense.

Discussing the Mayor’s announcement at yesterday’s IROC meeting (July 18), Assistant PUD Director Alex Ruiz said the department will find an accomodation because local water supplies increased considerably during the last rainy season. As a result the department figures it can draw “up to” 20,000 AF of local supplies to avoid buying about $8.75 million in imports from SDCWA. The department is also looking at more staffing cuts and creating further “efficiencies.”

Although the action hasn’t been labeled a “deferred” price increase, that’s what it looks like. SDCWA’s higher price isn’t going away at the end of the next fiscal year and there will likely be another price hike announced for the following year as well. So at some point the City will have to cover the higher costs either by passing them on to consumers or by further “absorbing” expenses within the department at some risk to infrastructure and operations. And if you think capital improvement projects, maintenance and repairs, and EPA consent agreement work isn’t piled up already, think again.

Will San Diego have to “catch up” with deferred water rate increases? What’s the risk of drawing down the City’s emergency storage capacity now that it has some water saved? Are we using precious reserves to temporarily defer expenses as a political expedient? And what about popular support for setting water rates that discourage waste? Does artificially keeping rates down send a mixed message about that?

Whatever happens, I don’t think broader public understanding will come from would-be mayors accusing PUD of mismanagement over water rates and saying things like “I pledge to cut rates by 15% and freeze them for five years without any delay in our infrastructure investment and while maintaining the highest standards for water quality.”


Posted in Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC), Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water, Water rates | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

MWD to San Diego water managers: you’ve betrayed us

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 23, 2011

[updated June 24]

You’ll recall that Metropolitan Water District (MWD) recently terminated a number of agreements to help fund local conservation and water supply development projects like the San Vicente Recycling project in Ramona and also decided against entering pending agreements to support projects such as the Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Project.

San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has a big objection: MWD funds such conservation program agreements from its Water Stewardship Rate fee…and SDCWA’s contribution to that fund comes to a cool $22.5 million per year. Not fair, they say.

SDCWA says MWD’s terminations amount to “retaliation” for a lawsuit charging that MWD’s water transportation rate structure is illegal. SDCWA says MWD’s rates are illegal in part because MWD overcharges for delivering water that SDCWA already owns, in effect subsidizing MWD’s State Water Project water. This circumstance comes about because SDCWA buys Imperial Valley water from Imperial Irrigation District and pays MWD a wheeling charge to transport to the water to San Diego Aqueduct pipelines via the Colorado River Aqueduct. What gets bundled into that wheeling charge is the question.

The topic came up at this morning’s SDCWA Imported Water Committee meeting, part of a monthly all-day committee marathon culminating in a Board meeting.

“SDCWA pays $22.5 million per year to support that program and receives nothing in return?” asked Director Doug Wilson. “Why don’t we just stop sending that money and keep it for ourselves?” That was met with silent agreement, but General Manager Maureen Stapleton cautioned that there would be complications with unilaterally stopping those payments.

However, the meeting agenda packet reveals a variant tactic. A letter sent on June 13 to MWD Chairman Jack Foley reads in part:

“The Water Authority pays more to support MWD’s conservation and local supply programs than any other MWD member agency. By MWD’s own estimate, the Water Authority averages $22.5 million annually in Water Stewardship Rate payments; yet, under MWD board policy and action
under the RSI clause, the Water Authority and the ratepayers it serves are ineligible for program
benefits. The Water Authority hereby makes formal demand that MWD cease collection of Water Stewardship Rate dollars from the Water Authority’s ratepayers so we may fund our own conservation and local water supply development projects directly.”

The letter was signed by Directors Jim Bowersox, Lynne Heidel, Keith Lewinger, and Fern Steiner.

Director Lewinger lobbied that it’s time to begin a really vigorous public relations campaign and flood the county with updates and news highlighting the situation.

Was MWD retaliating for the lawsuit when it terminated its agreements? SDCWA Director Lynne Heidel said MWD Chairman Foley recently told her “You’re all a bunch of Benedict Arnolds.” Kidding? – maybe.* But GM Stapleton said she heard the same thing and that Foley later told her “Don’t take it personally.” Stapleton’s reply: “Just call me Ms. Arnold.”

* June 24: Someone told me they didn’t understand what the “betrayal” was. My take is that these are water management colleagues who are normally on friendly terms and the lawsuit puts them in a sensitive position, perhaps like someone choosing sides when a couple with whom (s)he is mutual friends are getting divorced. I guess Stapleton could have also replied that MWD was the Benedict Arnold by engaging in retaliation.




The following is from a handout provided at the committee meeting showing the status of the existing and pending agreements with MWD.


Posted in Carlsbad Desalination Project, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Poseidon Desalination Plant (Carlsbad), San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water, Water conservation | 2 Comments »

Update on MWD’s subsidy (or not) for the Poseidon desalination plant

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 16, 2011

This is a followup to Tuesday’s post Lawsuit leads to cut in Poseidon desalination subsidy and more in which a San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) news release was cited. The news release, in part, said “The MWD board also instructed its staff to refuse to consider any pending or future local supply development projects in San Diego County. The pending agreements included the Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Project, which would have been eligible for up to $14 million in annual payments…

Today a story in the Desalination & Water Reuse website writes that Poseidon Resources “denied reports that the current standoff in Southern California between the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) will affect the Carlsbad Desalination Project” and that a Poseidon representative said “This claim is incorrect and shows a disappointing lack of understanding about the project’s status and financing.”

A review of the summary report for the June 14 MWD Board meeting doesn’t clarify things much:

“The board reviewed the Rate Structure Integrity provisions of Local Resources Program and conservation agreements with the San Diego County Water Authority; voted to not terminate the two regional commercial and residential conservation incentives agreements; and approved termination of the remaining two active conservation and Local Resources Program funding agreements with the Water Authority.”

Looking deeper in the MWD Board Agenda packet, the Legal and Claims Committee provided the Board with several options. The recommended option reads:

…”terminate the existing incentive agreements with the Water Authority that contain rate structure integrity language. This option is consistent with the policy set forth by the RSI language. Staff will also continue to defer the approval of any pending agreements with the Water Authority requiring inclusion of the RSI provisions, until authorized by the Board.” [the Carlsbad subsidy is one of those pending agreements]

As noted, the meeting summary doesn’t mention the pending agreements, but assuming the Board approved the recommended option, it appears the Carlsbad desalination agreement was not specifically terminated; rather, it remains in the same limbo that was created at MWD’s May 10 meeting which deferred execution of the agreement until further notice.


Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Poseidon Desalination Plant (Carlsbad), San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water, Water desalination | 2 Comments »

Lawsuit leads to cut in Poseidon desalination subsidy and more

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 14, 2011

[updated June 16–see bottom]

As predicted here one year ago (San Diego County Water Authority water pricing lawsuit could jeopardize funding for Carlsbad Desalination Plant), the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has moved to terminate an agreement that would have paid a subsidy of $250 per acre foot (potentially $14M annually) to Posiedon and the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) for water produced at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. According to the SDCWA news release, “The MWD board also instructed its staff to refuse to consider any pending or future local supply development projects in San Diego County. The pending agreements included the Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Project, which would have been eligible for up to $14 million in annual payments.” SDCWA said MWD’s action was retaliation for its lawsuit filed last year challenging MWD’s water rates.

Other MWD conservation rebates were also affected.

Here are news releases from both parties and local news reports:

A few days ago, the Sacramento Bee had this observation on the dispute: Warring water agencies should tone down rhetoric.

June 16: MWD move will not affect Carlsbad desalination, says Poseidon

Please see also the June 16 update to this story


Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Poseidon Desalination Plant (Carlsbad), San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water, Water conservation, Water desalination | 2 Comments »

San Diegans get a close look at their Northern California water lifeline

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 28, 2011

Last weekend I joined a group of over 30 people from a variety of professions and occupations in San Diego County participating in an inspection trip of the California State Water Project and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Our visit came just as a major storm had finished moving through the area Feb 26-27. It was nice to see lots of fresh snow accumulating in the Sierras.

The two-day educational trip was sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and hosted by the San Diego County Water Authority. The tour helped us gain a deeper appreciation of the complex system that supplies much of Southern California and gives San Diego about a third of its water (the Colorado River is the other primary source of our imported water) and a better understanding of the challenges faced by the system. The Delta plays a critically important role for California’s economy and energy and water, but for many San Diegans it’s a faraway place and easy to take for granted, so these informative tours provide a valuable experience that locals should take advantage of.

Diagram of the Delta

After our flight to Sacramento, we boarded a bus for a trip north to the Oroville Reservoir and dam. Oroville, on the Feather River, is the main water source for the State Water Project and is thus an important place for San Diegans to keep an eye on. Snow was visible in the nearby hills and it was quite chilly.

Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States — nearly as high as the Eiffel Tower — and can hold about 3 1/2 million acre feet of water and is the fourth-largest source of hydroelectric power in California. Oroville’s reservoir level had been dropping alarmingly over the past few years but with the wet storms that we’ve had this season the reservoir is well over half-full and still filling.

During our bus ride, Phyllis Ortman from Metropolitan and Keith Lewinger from the County Water Authority plied us with details about environmental, political, legal, and logistical factors in the management of the Delta and the State Water Project. Phyllis is apparently well-known for having lots of handouts and it’s a good thing we were given sturdy bags to carry them all!

After lunch we took a brief drive across the dam and proceeded to a tour of the nearby Feather River Fish Hatchery where we saw a barrier dam, fish ladder, rearing raceways, and other mitigation facilities for spawning salmon and steelhead trout.

You can click any of the following photos for an enlargement.

On top of Oroville Dam looking west

On top of Oroville Dam looking east. Note the bathtub ring is greatly reduced.

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Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s water future: who has the helm?

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 11, 2010

As noted in yesterday’s water rates story, the main supplier for most of San Diego County’s water is the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and it holds great power when it comes to the cost and reliability of our water supply. So when MWD announced a stakeholder forum to examine the 2010 Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) Update there were naturally going to be many local water professionals in attendance. The IRP makes major changes to MWD’s strategy for water reliability through the year 2035, including a bold plan to create a large storage “buffer” to serve as a backup supply against virtually any scenario.


Held at the Ramada Conference Center on Kearny Mesa Road Tuesday, Aug 10, this was the third in a series of four stakeholder forums held in different Southern California cities, the objective being “to present Metropolitan’s Draft IRP resource strategy and to hear stakeholder input and feedback.”

There were about 75-100 individuals in attendance.

The morning session was delivered in segments with a brief question period after each presenter finished. After lunch it was time for the Q&A and comments from the audience. The public comment period was moderated by Paul Brown who did an excellent job of managing the process, facilitating discussion, drawing out comments, and summarizing/recapping statements being made.

Since the plan had been available online well in advance of the meeting, it was apparent that most people there had already seen it, processed their personal reactions, and had thoroughly analyzed it. That preparation showed in the comments which were delivered very diplomatically. You can view the plan at MWD’s IRP page.

Mark Weston, General Manager of Helix Water District pointed out that local water agencies are much better at mobilizing conservation efforts than the Met dictating from a distance. He suggested the Met might be less involved in conservation programs and focus more on reliability of imported water.

Other individuals posed questions that tended toward two themes: MWD’s financial transparency or lack thereof (“Exactly how does Met plan to allocate or distribute supply project costs?”) and authoritarian management style (“It seems like Met is always dictating to us”).

I wasn’t counting but numerous individuals wanted to know about costs of projects being contemplated by MWD.

One gentleman rose to complain about water shortages caused by population growth and rapid development.

Chris Cate from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) said he was unable to find a database of every project contemplated across all service areas; same for a comprehensive list of assumptions used for MWD ‘buffer’ projects: He said “the cost information provided in the Draft IRP is wholly inadequate to form the basis of decision-making by the MWD Board of Directors.” SDCTA also submitted written comments in this letter for the Chairman of the MWD Board.

Other questions and comments from attendees ranged from “What’s the reason for the rush with an October deadline for the IRP?” to “Where are the emergency plans?” to “We need more help with purple pipe infrastructure” to “What’s it going to cost?”

The feedback most representative of the general sentiment in the room was undoubtedly given by Dennis Cushman, Assistant General Manager at San Diego County Water Authority. His statement is below. For your convenience, here’s the 1994 Blue Ribbon Report that he refers to.


Thanks to Mr. Cushman and to SDCTA for providing me with a copy of their statement.


Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Possible water for SoCal from Mexico?

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 3, 2010

Since San Diego has an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District for some of its water, I always read stories about IID when I find them even if they might not appear that interesting on the surface. So I was skimming an article in last week’s Imperial Valley Press innocuously titled IID to unveil new logo, review new administration building proposal when I came to a paragraph that said:

“The IID board will also hear about a proposal to allow Southern California water agencies to fund quake repairs on Baja California’s water infrastructure in exchange for a portion of Mexico’s Colorado River water allotment.”

The Baja Earthquake could mean water for Southern California water agencies? I knew there was a possible deal with Westlands that could help replenish the giant but half-empty Diamond Valley Lake reservoir and my first thought was that a deal with Mexico could top it off.

Trying to learn more, my emails to the reporter and to IID went unanswered, but I received a response from Halla Razak, the Colorado River Program Director at San Diego County Water Authority. She confirmed that there have been talks about extensive earthquake damage to canals and water facilities in northern Baja and possible mitigation assistance. When I pressed her about which water agency proposed this idea and who is coordinating discussions, she replied that the whole idea is “very preliminary, discussed during informal conversations.”

I did find something related in this Executive Director’s Report to the Colorado River Board of California although it only mentions temporary storage, not a water transfer:

“As reported at the April Board meeting, with the large magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Mexicali Valley in early April, water deliveries from a large number of the canals in the Mexicali Valley have been disrupted. To assist Mexico in coping with this situation, the United States has suggested that, in the interest of international comity and as a one-time program, Mexico would be allowed to store up to 200,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir system in the United States this year and then be allowed to request the delivery of the stored water during calendar year 2011. This would mean that in 2011 Mexico could request a deliveryof up to 1.7 maf. Mexico has considered this offer made by the United States and is proposing that this offer by the United States be incorporated into a more comprehensive deal that includes the concepts that are currently being discussed by the two countries to pursue Bi-National projects that could benefit both countries. Thus, Mexico has proposed that within the next 90 days that agreement be reached on a proposal for International Cooperative Measures in the Colorado River Basin and that this agreement be documented in a new minute to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty, Minute 318.”

Further digging led to a little more. From Metropolitan Water District’s Colorado River Program Manager, I received this reply:

“Mexico and the United States are negotiating an agreement that would provide Mexico with additional tools to better manage its water supply. Included in the discussions are a proposal for Mexico to store water in Lake Mead, for the United States and Mexico to jointly develop water conservation programs in Mexico, and for Mexico to temporarily provide water to the United States in exchange for receiving funding for earthquake repair. [emphasis mine] The proposal is still being developed; at this time no formal agreement has been reached. If the United States and Mexico reach agreement, then agencies such as Metropolitan could begin discussions with Mexico about how to move forward on specific aspects of it. It is hoped that an agreement could be reached by the end of 2010.”

As for the damage to water infrastructure caused by the quake, the Baja California Earthquake Clearinghouse website has detailed illustrated reports. The summary below is from a newsletter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute:

Damage to agriculture in the Mexicali Valley as a result of liquefaction is considerable. An estimated 300 km of canals are damaged, and most of this year’s crops are expected to be lost because of an inability to water them. Flooding of agricultural land with water from sand boils and other sources has resulted in standing water, which kills plants. Fields are no longer level, and will require earthwork and leveling before gravity-controlled irrigation can resume. 300,000 families are thought to be largely out of business because of the earthquake.

[Added] See also this July EERI comprehensive report surveying the quake damage.

If something does emerge from the preliminary talks it will no doubt require high-level involvement because of the international treaty with Mexico and the complex laws governing Colorado River water, but if MWD is right about an agreement by the end of the year, Mexico could soon get some needed assistance and Southern California might be able to supplement a large reservoir or two. Win/win.


Aug 4 update: I received this followup note from Bill Hasencamp from the MWD General Manager’s Office:

The International Boundary and Water Commission oversees the 1944 Treaty with Mexico regarding water deliveries between the 2 countries. Since the Original Treaty, more than 200 Minutes have been added to either amend or clarify the Treaty. For the current effort, the IBWC is leading negotiations between the 2 countries to draft a minute that will handle the provisions of any water and currency exchange between the two countries. The Bureau of Reclamation is coordinating the Colorado River Basin States’ input to the negotiations, as we would be the ones providing any money for water. It’s the ultimate responsibility of the IBWC, however, to complete negotiations, which is hoped to finish in the next few months, so that Mexico can start receiving U.S. money to fund infrastructure repair.

There is a meeting in Las Vegas this Friday between the 2 countries to further the discussions.

[Aug 11: The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on the upcoming meeting]

[Dec 20: Salazar, Elvira announce water agreement to support response to Mexicali valley earthquake]


Posted in Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Water | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

San Diego County Water Authority water pricing lawsuit could jeopardize funding for Carlsbad Desalination Plant

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 11, 2010

The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Board of Directors unanimously approved filing suit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) challenging the 2011 and 2012 water rates that MWD adopted in April. The SDCWA news release quotes Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors saying “MWD improperly overcharges the Water Authority and its ratepayers in violation of California law.” The special board meeting was yesterday (June 10, 2010).

Links to local media reports and SDCWA releases are listed below.

Interestingly, the lawsuit potentially jeopardizes a funding incentive for the Poseidon Desalination Plant and the Desal Partner agencies.

Poseidon, its Desal Partners, and the Water Authority have an agreement with MWD whereby they would receive up to $250 per acre foot from MWD under a Seawater Desalination Program Incentive for a term of 25 years. There is an MWD rule, however, that allows it to terminate incentives if a member agency legally or legislatively challenges the MWD water rate structure. Thus, if SDCWA does pursue the lawsuit, it could prompt MWD to terminate its incentive agreement.

Anticipating this possibility at an earlier SDCWA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, 2010 the Water Planning Committee reported that Poseidon and the Desal Partner agencies were asking the Water Authority to guarantee them those funds if the incentive agreement were terminated. That request was supposed to have been discussed at yesterday’s meeting, but it appears the Board has not made a final decision on that yet. [June 12: The North County Times picked up the incentive issue in a late p.m. story]

Posted in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Poseidon Desalination Plant (Carlsbad), San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water | 1 Comment »