Antoine Abou-Diwan had an interesting story over the weekend in the Imperial Valley Press suggesting fallowing, rather than more sophisticated agricultural water conservation approaches, has become the default standard for water savings in the Imperial Valley needed to meet the Imperial Irrigation District’s obligations under California’s Quantification Settlement Agreement.
Under the QSA, water saved in Imperial is transferred to coastal Southern California for urban use. This is all part of California’s Byzantine efforts to live within its 4.4 million acre foot Colorado River allocation:
Under the terms of the QSA, the IID will eventually transfer to the San Diego County Water Authority 200,000 acre-feet of water annually, and more than 100,000 acre-feet to the Coachella Valley Water District and Metropolitan Water District.
The transfer should be sustained by water that is conserved through improvements to the IID’s system and on-farm water-efficient irrigation practices, like sprinklers and tailwater recovery systems, all funded with millions of dollars from the recipients of the IID’s water.
Yet, 10 years into the transfer, most of the water being conserved comes from fallowing, whereby a field is taken out of production to conserve the water that would ordinarily irrigate it.
If you’re interested in the complexities of making conservation work in a water-stressed West, the full article is worth a read.