California Senate Sends Water Deal to Davis

Sept. 12, 2003
P>Three bills meant to end one of the West's most intractable water wars are on their way to Governor Gray Davis.

The bills, which have already been approved by the Senate, would implement a 75-year agreement among four Southern California water agencies that split the state's annual allotment from the Colorado River.

California has used more than its fair share for years, and is under pressure from the government and other states that draw from the Colorado to develop a plan to gradually wean itself from the excess water.

The failure of the four water agencies to sign a deal last year prompted Interior Secretary Gale Norton to punish California by cutting its water usage by 15 percent.

This plan subsidizes new conservation technology for farmers in the arid Imperial Valley in southeastern California while freeing up water for growing cities. The agreement also sets up a restoration plan for the environmentally threatened Salton Sea, a major stopping point for migratory birds that relies on runoff from Imperial Valley farms for much of its water.

The state's allotment is 4.4 million acre-feet a year, with 65 million gallons of water per year being transferred from Imperial Valley farmers to San Diego County's urban users.

The agreement specifies that the four water agencies must ratify it by Oct. 12.

Source: Associated Press