Metropolitan Water and Imperial Irrigation Districts settle Colorado River dispute

Metropolitan Water and Imperial Irrigation Districts settle Colorado River dispute

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) came to an agreement over implementation of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, thereby ending a two-year long legal battle.

In 2019, IID filed a lawsuit alleging Metropolitan violated the California Environmental Quality Act when Metropolitan approved its participation in the DCP. And in 2020, IID filed another lawsuit against Metropolitan alleging breach of contract related to the storage of Colorado River water.

IID General Manager Henry Martinez said, “By entering into this settlement agreement, both IID and Metropolitan recognize the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the Colorado River system is one where both agencies work alongside one another on these critical matters. IID continues to advocate for protection of the Salton Sea and, with our partners, will seek additional state and federal funding to construct much-needed restoration projects.”

Under the settlement agreement, IID can store additional amounts of conserved water in Metropolitan’s Lake Mead account. If Lake Mead continues dropping to a level requiring California to make a contribution under the Drought Contingency Plan, IID will help make that contribution. In addition, the settlement resolves a dispute over water that Metropolitan diverted in 2018 through shared storage of the water between the agencies. It also establishes that Metropolitan and IID will explore ways to increase Lake Mead’s drought resilience and that Metropolitan will support ongoing efforts to secure state and federal funding for the Salton Sea.

The agreement allows Metropolitan and IID to resume negotiating new solutions to address the imbalance on the Colorado River. The DCP expires in 2026 and the states, water agencies, tribes and portions of Mexico that rely on the river are initiating negotiations of a new set of long-term solutions.

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