Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and Bard Water District have announced a landmark, seven-year seasonal land fallowing agreement that will provide Colorado River water to benefit California cities and farms.
The long-term seasonal fallowing agreement was proposed by MWD after a successful voluntary seasonal fallowing pilot program in 2016 and 2017 was completed. This new agreement will run through 2026.
Under the agreement, Bard farmers will be paid not to grow water-intensive crops from April 1
through July 31 of each year. The water saved will be made available to MWD for current urban needs or stored in Lake Mead for future use.
“The Colorado River is a lifeline to millions of people in seven states and two countries, but the reality is that there is an imbalance between supplies and demands that is being compounded by the effects of climate change,” said MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger. “This agreement is an innovative approach to preserve California agriculture while ensuring water reliability for our urban communities.”
Bard Water District is located in the southeastern corner of California bordering Yuma, Arizona. Colorado River water is diverted from the All American Canal into the Bard Water District to irrigate approximately 7,120 acres for agriculture purposes.
MWD announced it will pay $452 per acre fallowed between April and July, up to $1.4 million annually, with no more than 3,000 acres left idle. Of the payments made, 75 percent goes to farmers under individual agreements, while 25 percent is paid to Bard Water District for infrastructure improvements to an aging water delivery system.
The program is estimated to make up to 6,000 acre-feet of water available annually for MWD’s 5,200 square-mile service area, which is enough water to meet the needs of about 18,000 Southern California households for a year.
“This program will provide mutual benefits to both agencies and will demonstrate how urban-agriculture partnerships can work,” said Nick Bahr, General Manager for the Bard Water District. “Our partnership with local farmers will help us make needed upgrades to our water delivery system.”
This latest agreement means MWD now has partnerships in place with every agricultural entity in California that uses Colorado River water. This partnership follows those with Imperial Irrigation District, Palo Verde Irrigation District, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Quechan Indian Tribe.