Three party deal saves money and conserves water

Last week a deal was struck between the San Diego County Water Authority, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) designed to “boost water levels in Lake Mead, combat upward pressure on wholesale water rates, and create a new template for water management in the arid West.”

The exchange works like this: The Water Authority will leave 50,000 acre-feet of conserved QSA water in the river, helping to raise the level of Lake Mead, which has fallen perilously low in recent years. The volume is equivalent to the amount of water used in a year by approximately 150,000 single-family homes. It’s also equivalent to about three months of San Diego County’s deliveries under the QSA, which created the largest water conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history. The Bureau of Reclamation will cover the cost of the Water Authority’s QSA supplies left in the river. The Water Authority agreed to buy 50,000 acre-feet from MWD to meet current and future demands. The Water Authority’s financial savings result from the cost differential between the MWD supply rate and the rate for IID’s conserved water through the QSA.

For the Water Authority, the arrangement is expected to save a projected $15 million to $20 million (depending on hydrological variables).

“This is a great example of what happens when we collaborate and work together. Cooperation by all three water agencies and the Bureau of Reclamation produced a creative solution that helps sustain the Colorado River.” said San Diego County Water Authority Chair Mel Katz.

The agreement will be for one year. Funds to facilitate the deal are from the federal 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

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