The Colorado Delta proved to be only the tip of the iceberg. With the new century fast approaching, California was being forced to reduce its consumption of Colorado River water, and plans were soon underway to transfer huge volumes of water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.
The water transfer deal eventually hammered out became known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement (or “QSA”). The agreement called for the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), California’s biggest user of Colorado River water, to sell up to 300,000 acre feet of water per year to the coastal cities of San Diego County. To generate this water, IID planned to take three measures: provide inducements to farmers for following their agricultural fields, institute on-farm water efficiency techniques, and encase in concrete the Imperial Valley’s main water conveyance channel from the Colorado, the All-American Canal.
Prior to enactment of the water deal, CURE proposed a number of modifications to the proposed agreement, so it would be more equitable for all residents of Imperial Valley. CURE advocated that the water transfers take place for a maximum of 15 rather than 75 years to allow a reassessment of economic and environmental impacts before the deal went into full force and effect. CURE also asserted and continues to maintain that less water should be transferred to San Diego County to reserve enough flow to keep the Salton Sea alive. In addition, CURE believes that San Diego should explore practical conservation measures such as low-flow toilets and gray water landscape use for its golf courses and new home systems.
In October 2003, convinced that the State of California would fund the restoration of the Salton Sea, the Imperial Irrigation District approved a version of the 1501-page QSA. A decade of litigation ensued. In 2009, a court invalidated the deal because the State of California’s commitment to mitigate the decline of the Sea was unenforceable. An appellate court reversed and the case was retried. In August 2013, the QSA deal was finally “validated” by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly.
This year, the water transfers will go into full effect. Because no restoration plan has been adopted, Imperial and Coachella Valleys, now faced with how to address the potentially severe environmental and health consequences of the water transfer agreement.