California Addresses Drought

New drought plan puts California third in line after Arizona and Nevada to cut water use from Lake Mead.

In a controversial mid-March decision, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) sealed California’s participation in and, in effect, the entire landmark Colorado River drought management plan, by agreeing to take financial responsibility for more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels.

MWD’s actions came over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado. The Imperial Valley agricultural district has refused to sign the drought plan until the federal government provides $200 million of promised funding for restoration of the Salton Sea, and IID’s insistence on that funding has forced California to miss two federal deadlines for joining the pact.

As we reported here in December, the seven states that rely on Colorado supplies have been working on their respective drought plans for quite a long time, but their sloth-like progress had drawn the ire of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. Under the drought contingency plan, Arizona and Nevada would be the first in line to reduce their Lake Mead withdrawals. If the vital reservoir drops farther, California
would then cut back, spreading its cuts across the MWD, Imperial and other agencies that use the river.


Photo by M McBey