A discussion of the Salton Sea and the New River at the IBWC Citizen’s Forum

In this 2014 photo provided by the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, the delta where the New River spills into the Salton Sea is shown. Mexico has reclaimed much of the New River water, which has reduced flows to the Sea by as much as 80,000 acre-feet.

On April 26, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Colorado River Citizens’ Forum held a meeting in the Imperial Valley during which the Salton Sea and New River were two critical issues discussed. For those unfamiliar, the IBWC is a joint agency of the United States and Mexico that oversees water issues between the two nations, which have a common interest in the Colorado River through a 1944 treaty that grants Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water. The Citizens’ Forum is part of the U.S. arm of the Commission that comes together on a quarterly basis to keep the public apprised of local, regional, and international water issues between Mexico and the U.S. dealing with the Colorado. As the meeting was held in the Imperial Valley earlier this month, it only made sense that the Sea and New River were issues discussed.

First, I want to discuss an issue that came up during a presentation on the Salton Sea. Specifically, there seemed to be a lack of understanding as to the status of water flows to the Sea and what happens in 2018 when mitigation water ends. There was a misconception that the Sea will no longer have a source of

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Here’s Hoping State Tour of the Salton Sea Brings Results

California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, pictured far left, speaks about the Salton Sea during the recent Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. renewable energy summit.

On a recent day in March, there was an unprecedented event at the Salton Sea. A handful of State Senators joined by an Assemblyman and several other key State officials gathered for a tour of the Sea. It may have been the first time—at least the first time in recent history—so many State officials came together at one time to see the Salton Sea. And while only time will tell if such a tour will have a substantive impact on how the State addresses the Sea, it does represent a heightened awareness the State has a responsibility to manage the Sea.

The tour was organized by the Water Foundation  together with Sen. Ben Hueso, who represents San Diego and Imperial County, and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, who represents the southeastern portion of Riverside County and Imperial County. They were joined by Sens. Toni Atkins of San Diego, Jeff Stone of Riverside County, and Ben Hertzberg of Los Angeles County. Additionally, John Laird, Secretary of California Natural Resources, attended along with many other representatives from key State departments.

On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, these esteemed visitors flew in from Sacramento, then boarded a bus to the Salton Sea—specifically Red Hill Marina—to see the progress on one of the first restoration projects to move forward, a 450-acre wetlands project where water will be pumped from the sea to

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Cautiously Optimistic To See If Rains and Snow Continue, But Colorado River System Needs a Great Deal More To Offset Dry Years

In this file photo from 2016 courtesy California Department of Water Resources a snow survey is done to measure the snowpack in the Sierras.

With above normal rains drenching much of California and snowpack levels on the rise, attention has turned to what this means for the state’s long-term drought. Media reports and opinion columns vary, with most of the focus aimed at the impacts to Northern California reservoirs and the State Water Project. Some reports declare the drought over as thirsty reservoirs up north begin to fill, certainly changing the tide of what has been ten mostly dry years. Other reports urge caution as weather patterns can quickly change, so to rush into an end-of-drought declaration is much too soon. Sustained rain and additional snow—with slow run-off into the spring—is needed to ensure the end of this prolonged drought is at hand, the more cautious in the field of water management argue. Again, most of the discussion in the media has focused on the northern part of the state.

But what about Southern California, much of which is served by a different basin: the Colorado River Basin?

Going into this wet season, Lake Mead—the reservoir that serves the Lower Colorado River Basin—has been at record low levels. For the last couple of years, water agencies in the Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California, have been on shortage watch. Meaning, when Lake Mead elevation falls below designated levels, a shortage declaration could be triggered and result in cutbacks. According to

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