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December 2010
In This Issue
Federal Court Overturns Delta Smelt Protection Plan
Water Year Off to Strong Start
U.S., Mexico Reach Historic Water Deal
Water Authority Board Approves Natural Community/Habitat Conservation Plan
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San Diego County Water Authority

Federal Court Overturns Delta Smelt Protection Plan
Delta SmeltOn December 14 a federal judge overturned large portions of the plan that protects Delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, a decision that potentially paves the way for increased water deliveries from the Delta to Southern California, including San Diego County.


U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan, known as a biological opinion, did not adequately justify the pumping restrictions in the Delta that have significantly curtailed water deliveries to Southern California since 2008.  Prior to the restrictions, San Diego County received as much as 30 percent of its water supply from the Delta through the State Water Project.

The exact impact to San Diego County's water supply is not yet known.  There will be a hearing on January 4 to determine next steps, including potential interim guidelines for State Water Project operations.

For more information go to Top Issues on the Water Authority website at: Bay-Delta Water Supplies | San Diego County Water Authority 

Water Year Off to Strong Start

The 2011 water year has started with a bang as record-breaking storm systems in Northern and Southern California continue to replenish reservoirs throughout the state. The current water content of the snowpack in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California is at 164 percent of normal, compared to only 80 percent at this time last year. Lake Oroville, the primary reservoir for the State Water Project, is currently at 88 percent of its normal levels, compared to 48 percent a year ago. A series of strong storms moving through San Diego County also is increasing supplies available from local storage.


Because of this strong early start, the Department of Water Resources increased its 2011 delivery projection from the State Water Project to 50 percent of contractors' requests, doubling the initial 25 percent allocation announced in November. The announcement means that the SWP will potentially be able to deliver more water to Southern California in 2011 than in recent years.


Climate experts are still predicting La Nina conditions that could result in much drier conditions through the remainder of the winter months. The final availability for statewide and local water supplies will be determined in late spring.

For the DWR December allocation announcement, click here.

U.S., Mexico Reach Historic Water Deal
Colorado RiverThe U.S. and Mexico have reached a deal to allow Mexico to defer up to 260,000 acre-feet of its water allotment from the Colorado River until 2014.  The deferment will give farmers in the Mexicali area time to repair irrigation networks damaged by an earthquake in April and allow Mexico to store that portion of its 1.5 million acre-foot annual allotment until its canals will be better able to handle water deliveries. Water Authority staff participated in the extensive review of the agreement, which included detailed technical discussions with U.S. and Mexican federal agencies, the seven Colorado River Basin states, and several Mexican state and local water agencies.
Under the agreement, Mexico can defer delivery of the water through 2013 and recover it in the following three years, when irrigation system repairs are completed. The water will be stored in Lake Mead.  The agreement benefits the United States by helping to maintain the elevation of Lake Mead, which has dropped to critical levels in recent years. This will forestall potential shortages to Lower Colorado River Basin states in the U. S. In addition, the agreement not only assists in meeting Mexico's near-term needs, but also will help develop consensus on a range of future binational water management activities including shortage and surplus sharing, new water supply projects, and environmental restoration. 
The agreement does not affect the Water Authority's water transfers from the Imperial Irrigation District or its canal-lining projects.

For the Department of the Interior News Release, click here.

Water Authority Board Approves Natural Community/Habitat Conservation Plan
Quino Checkerspot butterfly is one of 63 animal and plant species protected by the Water Authority's habitat conservation plan

The Water Authority Board of Directors approved several important measures in December that will ensure environmentally sensitive habitat and species are protected during the construction and operation of critical projects that ensure the water supply reliability of our region.


The measures are the culmination of 15 years of collaboration between the Water Authority and state and federal wildlife agencies. They include the approval of a Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) and certification of the required state environmental impact report. The NCCP/HCP will help to secure long-term endangered species permits required by state and federal wildlife agencies, streamlining the Water Authority's environmental permitting process through 2065. 

For information on the NCCP/HCP, click here.

The San Diego County Water Authority works through its 24 member agencies to provide a safe and reliable water supply to support the region's $174 billion economy and quality of life of 3.2 million residents.