What You Should Know
Drought on the Colorado
The Imperial Valley receives its water from the Colorado River. In the midst of a 16 + year drought, the Colorado River system provides water to more than 40 million people in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.
The Imperial Valley receives its Colorado River water from the Imperial Irrigation District, which provides non-potable water to agricultural users and seven city agencies that then treat and distribute it to residents.
Currently, California Colorado River water supplies are stable; however, should the drought on the Colorado persist, curtailments to Nevada and New Mexico could start as early as 2018 or 2019. IID officials, along with Federal and State water officials, have been working on a drought contingency plan than looks to protect Lake Mead and prevent shortage curtailments. More information on this plan is forthcoming.
On March 7, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution to address climate change impacts, including enhanced protection of vulnerable communities and infrastructure from droughts, floods, and sea level rise.
“Californians continue to conserve despite the wet weather in many areas," said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. "This ongoing effort is important rain or shine for all sorts of reasons, in light of the greater extremes we can expect with climate change and increasingly weird weather. We're going to need to use all our tools including conservation and efficiency, water recycling, stormwater capture, and storing water above and below ground in wet times to get us through the dry times to deal with the Mack truck of climate change that has already arrived.
"Californians’ understand that ongoing water conservation benefits everyone, and we are grateful that people have not forgotten five years of devastating drought now that our reservoirs are overflowing.”
In February, the Board extended its existing water conservation regulations, which prohibit wasteful practices, such as watering lawns right after rain, and set a conservation mandate only for urban water suppliers that could not demonstrate they have enough water reserves to withstand an additional three dry years. Those supply reliability “stress test” results are here. The Board plans to revisit the conservation regulation in May.
History of the current CA Drought
On April 1, 2015, Governor Brown issued the fourth Executive Order necessary to address California's severe drought, which directed the State Water Board to implement mandatory water reductions in urban areas to reduce potable urban water usage by 25 percent statewide.
On May 5, 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency conservation regulation in accordance with the Governor's directive. The provisions of the emergency regulation went into effect on May 18, 2015.
In response to comments and suggestions, SWRCB regulations assigned urban water suppliers a water reduction target based upon three months of summer residential gallons-per-capita-per-day data (July-September 2014). These three months reflect the amount of water used for summer outdoor irrigation, which provides the greatest opportunity for conservation savings.
Urban water suppliers (serving more than 3,000 customers or delivering more than 3,000 acre-feet of water per year, and accounting for more than 90 percent of urban water use) have been assigned a conservation standard.
Imperial Valley providers falling under these restrictions included:
Brawley, 24 percent reduction
Calexico, 16 percent reduction
El Centro, 20 percent reduction
Imperial, 20 percent reduction
No specific use reduction targets were set for commercial, industrial, and institutional users served by urban and all other water suppliers. Water suppliers will decide how to meet their conservation standard through reductions from both residential and non-residential users.
In May 2016, Governor Brown issued an executive order calling for new permanent water use efficiency targets for each urban water supplier that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. The local “stress test” supply reliability data collected by the State Water Board will serve as a bridge to these actions and inform the development of new water use efficiency targets.
On Nov. 30, 2016, the State Water Board, along with four other state agencies, released a draft framework for implementing the executive order. The new plan’s fundamental premise is that efficient water use helps all of California better prepare for longer and more severe droughts caused by climate change.