CWA committee informed of ag water cuts plan
Last updated 9/7/2007 at Noon
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) provides surplus supplies to agricultural customers at a discounted rate with the condition of cutbacks in a drought of up to 30 percent prior to implementing any mandatory reductions to municipal and industrial customers. MWD plans to implement such a reduction at the beginning of 2008 in the absence of unexpected rainfall later this year, and on August 23 San Diego County Water Authority planning manager Bob Yamada made a presentation on the reduction plan to the County Water Authority’s (CWA) Water Planning Committee.
“We have time to get ready for this,” Yamada said. “We have time to plan for this.”
An actual regional reduction plan is expected to be brought before the CWA board September 27. That plan would implement a 30 percent cut to each CWA member agency based on the 2006-07 Interim Agricultural Water Program (IAWP) allocation. The CWA’s regional plan will include member agency reduction plans which have been submitted or are under review, and several of the CWA member agencies have implemented their own IAWP reduction plans.
“Rainbow is proceeding with this program as if we have to stand alone and execute the program to the best of our ability,” said Rua Petty, who is the Rainbow Municipal Water District representative to the CWA board and one of two CWA board members who utilize IAWP water.
In 1994 the Interim Agricultural Water Program was implemented by MWD. Discounted agricultural water supplies were limited based on the four-year period prior to the implementation. The twelve participating MWD agencies have a maximum annual cap of 155,190 acre feet, although agencies can use less than their allocation. The San Diego County Water Authority was allocated 100,459 acre feet. The Western Municipal Water District, which is located in Riverside County, has the second-largest allocation at 32,347 acre feet. No other MWD members are allocated more than 8,000 acre feet, and seven of the twelve districts receive less than 210 acre feet.
During Fiscal Year 2005-06 the 17 participating CWA agencies utilized 84,993 acre feet of IAWP supplies. The Valley Center Municipal Water District had the largest consumption, with 34,399 acre feet of IAWP deliveries. The Rainbow Municipal Water District ranked second with 20,264 acre feet, the Fallbrook Public Utility District was the third-largest user at 8,347 acre feet, and the City of Escondido placed fourth with 4,318 acre feet.
MWD has had an agricultural water program in place since 1958. In November 1990 the Incremental Interruption and Conservation Program was adopted by MWD, and the agricultural program was incorporated into the IICP in 1991. An agricultural property may choose to pay the municipal and industrial (M&I) rate and not be subject to the IAWP cuts.
In January 1991 MWD implemented a Stage III plan which included a 30 percent agriculture cut and a 10 percent municipal and industrial cut. In February 1991 MWD ordered a 31 percent Stage V cutback which reduced agricultural water by 50 percent and M&I supplies by 20 percent.
In March 1991 MWD called for a Stage VI cutback of 50 percent, which meant a 90 percent agricultural reduction and a 30 percent M&I drop. “The threat was the extinction of agriculture,” said Valley Center Municipal Water District general manager and CWA board representative Gary Arant. “The ’91 thing happened so fast.”
Before the Stage VI cuts were implemented, heavy rainfall hit Southern California in March 1991. The Stage VI cuts were cancelled, and many water agencies began focusing on storage and diversifying supplies in preparation for the next long-term
Agencies participating in the IAWP program must provide monthly agricultural water certification to MWD and must submit a plan to meet mandatory cuts to agriculture if needed. The MWD member agency is required to pass on the entire water pricing differential directly to its own member agencies. MWD’s most recent budget included an increase in the IAWP rates to $261 per acre foot for untreated water and $394 per acre foot for treated water. The MWD budget also increased untreated Tier 1 M&I deliveries to $351 per acre foot and Tier 2 M&I supplies to $449 per acre foot.
In June MWD requested that its member agencies update their IAWP reduction plans and submit them by September 28. MWD prepared draft reduction guidelines for program implementation which include establishing a baseline, verification of usage, and penalties for non-compliance. IAWP cutbacks beyond 30 percent will be tied to M&I cutbacks and have yet to be determined.
“Agriculture has a specific reduction target that needs to be fulfilled,” Yamada said.
The MWD guidelines established Fiscal Year 2003-04 as the representative dry-year baseline for deliveries to MWD member agencies, although the CWA will be using Fiscal Year 2006-07 data for its reduction plan. “That best reflects dry-year conditions. That best reflects users which are currently in the program,” Yamada said of the CWA’s decision to use the 2006-07 baseline.
“By using 06-07, nobody is disproportionately harmed. Everybody gets approximately 70 percent of what they received in 06-07,” said Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) general manager Keith Lewinger, who is also FPUD’s representative on the CWA board and the chair of the CWA’s Water Planning Committee. “Every member agency is going to receive approximately 70 percent of what they got in 06-07.”
The MWD guidelines stipulated a participant obligation cutoff date of December 31, 2006. MWD’s guidelines also call for a penalty of twice the Tier 2 rate, or a surcharge of $898 per acre foot which would bring the total cost of exceeding the cutback amount to $1,212 per acre foot.
Lewinger noted that the penalty rate of triple the IAWP rate would deter farmers from buying their way out of the cutbacks. “That’s a big number for an agricultural customer,” Lewinger said.
The MWD guidelines also preclude the use of M&I water to supplement the IAWP cuts. “Metropolitan is asking for a real reduction in water use,” Yamada said. “These cutbacks need to stand on their own.”
In addition to the penalty charges, some member agencies have flow restrictors. FPUD is one of the agencies with flow restrictors. “In Fallbrook we are going to be shutting water off if people don’t comply with the program,” Lewinger said.
The other CWA board member receiving IAWP supplies is Bill Knutson of the Yuima Municipal Water District. “Our farmers are going to make it work. They realize that they’ve had interruptible water at a lower price all these years,” Knutson said.
Knutson explained that the benefits of lower water costs are worth the occasional cutbacks when needed. “They are firm believers in that. They want the program to continue in the future,” he said.