A feature by Sarah Pilla of Spectrum News 1 covers the recent agreement in which federal government is providing money for Salton Sea restoration projects in exchange for 400,000 AF/year of conservation by Southern California water agencies, with the Imperial Irrigation District responsible for the largest amount of conservation. While the deal has been lauded as a solution for keeping water in Lake Mead, Hydrowonk says it is not a good deal for the Salton Sea.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s first response to the failure of Colorado River Basin states to propose a plan to reduce the use of Colorado River water by 2 million acre-feet to 4 million acre-feet per year is to recognize evaporation and system losses in the Colorado River system, including the Lower Basin. Channeling the late management guru Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
The Colorado River remains in disarray as parties search for ways to meet the Bureau of Reclamation’s announced goal of reducing use of Colorado River water by 2 million acre-feet to 4 million acre-feet annually perhaps through the year 2026 (https://hydrowonk.com/blog/2022/08/19/the-colorado-river-in-disarray/). Hydrowonk hears rumors that parties are struggling in negotiations to secure voluntary conservation to meet the Bureau’s objectives, as well as provide conserved water to offset curtailments junior priorities incur under the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.
The inevitable is upon us. Channeling Hydrowonk’s favorite Chicagoan theologian, “the curtailments have come home to roost.”
Many are not surprised. The early 20th century was a period of historically high natural flows on the Colorado River when the 1922 Colorado River Compact was negotiated. The 1944 Treaty with the Republic of Mexico was, at least partly, a national security exercise during World War II against Nazi incursion south of our border. Were interested parties inside and outside state and federal governments engaged in long-term comprehensive risk assessment over the past seventy years? Based on Hydrowonk’s four decades plus experience, nope (with a few exceptions). Neglect is always a prelude to catastrophe.