As Lake Mead shrinks, California uses more than its share of water

As water managers in Nevada and elsewhere fight to keep Lake Mead as full as possible, an irrigation district in California has significantly overdrawn its Colorado River allotment over the past three years.

The Imperial Valley Irrigation District is the single largest water user on the Colorado, but it is “isolating itself” with its actions, said Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

She called the situation “very serious” and said the irrigation district’s behavior has “the flavor of arrogance.”

Particularly galling to Mulroy was the irrigation district’s decision to send billions of gallons of river water into the Salton Sea to freshen the brackish inland lake in 2010, just as Lake Mead was nearing an all-time low.

She called the move and the rationale behind it “preposterous.”

Now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is ordering the irrigation district to pay the river back for that water, which totaled 46,546 acre-feet, enough water to supply more than 90,000 single-family homes for one year.

“A depletion of this magnitude, without prompt responsive action, has the potential to tip the system into shortage earlier than might otherwise occur, with IID at the focal point of such a destabilizing event,” said Terry Fulp, the bureau’s Lower Colorado regional director, in a letter to the irrigation district earlier this month.

The bureau gave the district until June 30 to come up with a plan and a schedule to return the water to the river system.

IID spokeswoman Marion Champion said the district is still crafting its response. The board of directors is expected to discuss the matter during its meeting next week.

The irrigation district also will be a topic of discussion in San Diego next week, during a meeting of representatives from the seven states that share the Colorado River. Mulroy said she and other municipal water managers in the group are almost sure to bring up the issue.

“I think there’s going to be heightened scrutiny on IID,” she said.

IID is entitled to 3.1 million acre-feet of river water each year, more than 10 times Nevada’s annual allotment from the Colorado.

From now to the end of 2014, the irrigation district is slated to pay back almost 217,000 acre-feet of extra water it delivered to farms in the Imperial Valley in 2011 and 2012.

That’s enough water to raise the level of Lake Mead by two to three feet.

The district will return the water to the river by cutting its deliveries over the next two years. To accomplish that, some farmers will be required to fallow fields in the Imperial Valley, Fulp said.

Water from the district is used to irrigate nearly half a million acres of farmland just north of the Mexican border. That land produces more than $1 billion worth of crops a year, including 85 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables.

Champion said IID used less than its total allotment in five of the last 10 years for a total savings of about 820,000 acre-feet, but the district has no way to store large quantities of water so it essentially went to someone else.

As for what’s happened in the past three years, she said, “IID has been proactively working to address overrun and drought conditions along the Colorado for some time now.”

In January, for example, the district formed a water conservation committee to come up with ways to use water more efficiently and improve communication among growers so water can be moved from farm to farm based on need.

Fulp said a series of water agreements struck over the past decade require IID to cut and conserve enough water to make deliveries to municipal users in San Diego. The district also agreed to send some water to the shrinking Salton Sea to slow the decline expected to occur there as farms in the Imperial Valley conserve more and reduce their runoff.

Fulp noted that IID’s overruns to date are still within the 310,000 acre-feet it is allowed under the operational rules for the Colorado. But he also understands why Mulroy and others are worried, considering the continued drought and bleak outlook for Lake Mead.

The last thing you want to do is push the river into a shortage — and force Arizona and Nevada to cut their use — because a large user like IID took more than it was supposed to and failed to pay it back, Fulp said.

“There is a concern that if you fall too far behind you won’t be able to catch up,” he said.

Mulroy is definitely worried about Lake Mead, which supplies about 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s drinking water. But she also voiced broader concerns about river water being used to prop up a shallow lake in the California desert that was formed by a man-made flood on the Colorado more than a century ago and is now sustained by water running off fields in the Imperial Valley.

“The Salton Sea is an accident,” Mulroy said. “It’s agricultural runoff; that’s all it is.”

She said it’s ludicrous to imagine fresh water being sent to evaporate in a lake that’s already saltier than the Pacific Ocean while Lake Mead threatens to shrink low enough to shut down Las Vegas’ water intakes and the turbines at Hoover Dam.

“If the dams are spilling, fine, send water to the sea,” Mulroy said. “But I don’t know how they expect to be able to sustain it if we get into shortage” on the Colorado River.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Dennis Hof's Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like