Metropolitan calls on water transfer options from Sacramento Valley rice farmers

Metropolitan Water District exercised the first round of one-year options that transfer more than 31 billion gallons of water from Sacramento Valley rice farmers to the Southland.


LOS ANGELES, Calif., Feb. 17, 2003 -- Crystalizing the reliability of Southern California's imported water supplies in 2003, Metropolitan Water District exercised the first round of one-year options that transfer more than 31 billion gallons of water from Sacramento Valley rice farmers to the Southland.

Metropolitan called on a total of 97,200 acre-feet of water made available by idling rice acreage this year in Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Western Canal Water District and Richvale Irrigation District. An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount of water used by two typical Southland families in and around their households in a year.

"These one-year transfer options will go a long way to ensure urban Southern California's economy has dependable water supplies this year, while providing the local agricultural economies with a much-needed boost," said Metropolitan Chairman Phillip J. Pace.

"Today's action also helps build on the positive relationship that urban Southern California has forged with Sacramento Valley water interests over the past few years," Pace said. "Hopefully, it provides another constructive example of the mutual benefits that both northern and southern California can achieve through a productive, long-term relationship."

In exercising the three options, Metropolitan will receive 60,000 acre-feet from Glenn-Colusa, 20,000 acre-feet from Western Canal and 17,200 acre-feet from Richvale. Transferred water will be made available to Metropolitan during the rice-growing season, primarily May through September.

"Metropolitan's decision to call on this water will infuse nearly $10 million into the valley's agricultural economy," said Van Tenney, Glenn-Colusa general manager. "Our participation adds to Glenn-Colusa's practice of making significant amounts of water available to meet local needs."

The transfers realized today are among the one-year option agreements authorized by Metropolitan's board of directors in January to purchase up to 205,000 acre-feet from Sacramento Valley water districts in 2003. Metropolitan is considering options for up to 50,000 acre-feet from another seven Sacramento River districts. In addition, Metropolitan has until May 1 to exercise 20,000 acre-feet in options from Placer County Water Agency.

Under the agreements, Metropolitan paid the agricultural agencies $10 per acre-foot to secure the options. If the options are exercised, Metropolitan will pay farmers an additional $90 per acre-foot of the transferred supplies.

Metropolitan's action today coincides with the California Department of Water Resources' announcement that the state will maintain its earlier allocation of State Water Project supplies at 45 percent of the project contractors' entitlements. Based on that allocation, Metropolitan will receive 905,175 acre-feet in state project supplies this year. In a normal year, Metropolitan can expect about 1.1 million acre-feet of state project supply.

Ronald R. Gastelum, Metropolitan's chief executive officer, said the Sacramento Valley transfers will help make up the shortfall if the state allocation remains low. The district also plans to access 135,000 acre-feet of stored water carried over from last year in San Luis Reservoir and pull as much as another 250,000 acre-feet from groundwater storage and banking accounts throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.

"Our decision to exercise these transfer options underscores the types of short- and long-term investments urban Southern California has made over the past decade to diversify and stretch its portfolio of water management options, which will allow the district to meet all of its demands for imported water in 2003 and 2004," Gastelum said.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage, and other water-management programs.

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