COACHELLA, Calif. (CNS) — The Imperial Irrigation District and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced a settlement Monday in a legal dispute over Colorado River water.
The agreement, reached last week, resolves disputes that arose in the implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan, a series of agreements negotiated among the seven Colorado River Basin states to keep the river's two largest reservoirs from reaching critically low levels, according to IID.
The Colorado River has been in drought conditions for more than two decades, and as a result, last month the Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever tier one shortage on the river, triggering cutbacks to Arizona and Nevada, according to the utility.
Under the settlement agreement, IID can store additional amounts of conserved water in Metropolitan's Lake Mead account. If water levels at Lake Mead drop to levels requiring California to make a contribution under the Drought Contingency Plan, IID will help make that contribution, according to the utility.
The legal dispute between IID and Metropolitan started in 2019, when IID filed a lawsuit alleging MWD violated the California Environmental Quality Act by participating in the Drought Contingency Plan. The second lawsuit filed by IID in 2020 pertained to the storage of Colorado River water and water that MWD allegedly diverted in 2018.
"With this dispute behind us, we can resume working together towards tomorrow's solutions to address our significant challenges on the Colorado River," MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a statement. "Seven states, two nations, several Native American tribes, countless cities and farms — all rely on the Colorado River's waters. And yet the current level of reliance is not sustainable. Only by working together can we bring this river into balance."
IID General Manager Henry Martinez said, "By entering into this settlement agreement, both IID and Metropolitan recognize the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the Colorado River system is one where both agencies work alongside one another on these critical matters."
Under the settlement agreement, the agencies will explore ways to increase Lake Mead's drought resilience and Metropolitan will support ongoing efforts to secure state and federal funding for the Salton Sea.