Executive Summary for November 18th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California, including an update on drought conditions and the Westlands drainage plan. We also look at a looming decision on the Salton Sea.

Published on Nov. 18, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Westlands Drainage Settlement

A deal between Westlands Water District and the federal government over irrigation drainage took a step forward this week with a committee vote in the House of Representatives, reported Michael Doyle of McClatchy.

On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee voted by 27 to 12, mostly along party lines, in favor of the settlement. The Republican-controlled House is likely to pass it, although it’s not a done deal just yet.

The controversial agreement involves Westlands retiring 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) of land and being given a pass on the $375 million it owes the government. The district would also get a favorable deal on new water contracts. In return the federal government would be relieved of its obligation to build an irrigation drainage system that could cost billions. The drainage is needed to prevent the buildup of salts in the soil that would make the land unfarmable.

Salton Sea Decision Time

As the clock is ticking on efforts to mitigate the shrinking of the Salton Sea, the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California issued an ultimatum that could help spur action, Ian James reported for the Desert Sun.

The IID wants the state to finalize a 10-year plan for the imperiled lake before the end of the year that would help address the issues of worsening dust levels and ensuing public health concerns as the lake bed continues to dry. If the state fails to do so, the water district is threatening not to support a deal to help share the diminishing Colorado River water among lower basin states.

IID’s participation is crucial for the success of the proposed Colorado River agreement because the agency holds the largest single entitlement to water from the river and would account for about 60 percent of California’s proposed reductions in water deliveries,” wrote James. “In order to sign on, IID general manager Kevin Kelley said the district first needs to see a concrete blueprint for dealing with the lake’s accelerating decline.”

Winter Weather Update

This week’s drought monitor reported that temperatures across the West were higher than normal.

Drier and warmer conditions could be the norm this winter for parts of the southwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

High temperatures and dry weather in Colorado have meant a terrible start to the ski season “with all major river basins in Colorado reporting less than 25 percent of average snowfall by this point in the cold season. The lack of snowpack is evident across most of the West,” reported the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Additionally, southern parts of the country are likely to lean toward above-normal temperatures and less than average precipitation, according to the NOAA, which may translate to more areas being designated in drought.

“We’re expecting the drought conditions to continue through the winter time,” Christine Riley, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Hanford, told ABC news in Bakersfield. “And who knows beyond that; it could likely continue for another few years. And because we’re so far behind with our water, it’s going to take many many years of above-normal precipitation to see an improvement in the drought conditions.”

Recommended Reading

Suggest your story or issue.


Share Your Story.

Have a story idea? Interested in adding your voice to our growing community?

Learn more
× Dismiss
We have updated our Privacy Policy with a few important changes specific to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and our use of cookies. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our full Privacy Policy here.