Temporary fallowing defined in settlement

January 08, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The agreement that would create peace between water agencies for 75 years includes a definition of temporary fallowing as a means of conserving water in the Imperial Valley.

The agreement, known as the quantification settlement, establishes IID's right to use 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year.

It also establishes IID will transfer 200,000 acre-feet of water per year to the San Diego County Water Authority and 100,000 acre feet annually to the Coachella Valley Water Authority.

The agreement further notes that IID since 1988 has transferred 100,000 acre-feet per year to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.


On the issue of fallowing land, which means taking farmland out of production, IID directors have individually voiced their desire not to do so. The agreement to transfer water to San Diego specifically prohibits growers from fallowing as a means of conserving the water to be shipped to San Diego.

When asked why there is a definition of temporary fallowing in the quantification settlement, IID attorney John Carter said there is nothing that prohibits the IID board from approving some form of fallowing for the water that would be shipped to Coachella and MWD.

The definition of temporary fallowing in the agreement is, "The creation of conserved water from the retirement of land from crop production activities for a period starting no earlier than the effective date and ending on or prior to the termination date."

The effective date, according to the quantification settlement, is "defined and determined" under the 1998 IID/SDCWA transfer agreement.

The termination date is listed in the quantification settlement as the termination of the IID/SDCWA transfer agreement.

IID Director Andy Horne said there are situations that might occur under the quantification settlement that could lead to temporary fallowing.

"If we don't have enough water under the cap for every piece of land a farmer wants to farm, then that is temporary fallowing," Horne said.

"Theoretically, there is more farm ground here that we would not have the water to farm under this agreement," Horne added.

In addition, Horne said, the quantification settlement includes a measure that if IID in one year goes beyond its cap, it will have a set time to repay that amount by reducing its water use in the following years.

"The only way we could do that is to cut our water use," Horne said.

He said if that were to occur, it could lead to temporary fallowing.

However, he said it is important to note there is a difference between using fallowing as a sustained method of conserving water and using fallowing when the Imperial Valley exceeds its water cap.

"I would not support fallowing as a conservation method," Horne said. "I don't think our board is in favor of that."

He added the desire not to fallow makes it all that much more important for other means of water conservation to succeed.

IID Director Lloyd Allen said the quantification settlement needs to mention fallowing. He said if it did not, it might have to be included later and that would be difficult.

"Fallowing is an option that needs to be put in all the agreements," Allen said, stating the IID board is going to need every option to make sure it can conserve all the water necessary for transfer to other areas.

Allen said while the agreement to ship water to San Diego prohibits growers from fallowing land, it does not prohibit IID from fallowing should it be necessary to do so.

In other words, if farmers are unable to conserve all 200,000 acre-feet and IID must make up the difference, the district could implement fallowing, Allen said.

He said in the future IID might have to consider renting land and leaving that land fallow temporarily to assure there is enough water for transfer.

The quantification settlement has been released for public review.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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