From the Imperial Valley Press (Antoine Abou-Diwan):
The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors approved some changes to the district’s pilot water apportionment program Tuesday, eliminating some of its penalties. The board adopted the pilot Equitable Distribution Plan in April to help the district better manage its share of water from the Colorado River amid concerns over a possible drought and the greater scrutiny it brings from other water users that depend on the river.
The district has to pay back nearly 155,000 acre-feet of water in 2014, water that it ordered in excess of its allotment in 2011 and 2012. Under the Colorado River Compact, the district can order a small amount of water more than its allotment under the law. However, the record-low elevation at Lake Mead obligates the district to repay the entire 2012 overrun next year under the federal inadvertent overrun and payback policy.
The pilot EDP apportions to all eligible farmers 5.45 acre-feet of water per eligible acre per year. It also allows farmers to group their fields into “farm units” to easily transfer unused water from fields that need less than 5.45 acre-feet to fields that need more. It also allows farmers to trade unused water among each other through a water clearinghouse.
To discourage water-hoarding and the possibility of a water underrun, the program had a “take-or-pay” requirement in which farmers would have had to pay a balance for their unused water at the end of the year. The board waived that requirement Tuesday.