The IID Board met in regular session on July 21 and was briefed on a program that has been in place for three years and its current status.
In December 2017, the IID Board of Directors authorized the development of modification to the On-Farm Efficiency Conservation Program description and contracts to initiate a one-year pilot program alternative that quantifies the conservation payments for alfalfa, Bermuda and Kleinglass field participants (ABK Program) based on average conservation program yield specifically to those crops and certain conservation measures. A Water Conservation Advisory Board on-farms subcommittee worked with staff to develop the ABK program, focusing on the use of a conservation program average for contracting payment purposes, although the method for calculating the program yield remained unchanged.
The pilot was designed, in part, to grow the On-Farm project by encouraging participation by growers who were hesitant to make the significant financial investment required in advance for an uncertain conservation payment. These three crops accounted for over half of all cropped acreage participating in the program and are unique in that the number of cuttings can vary depending on the market and other conditions, while fields can also switch between seed and hay production mid-season-all of which affect filed water deliveries conservation volumes. This variability is compounded by the interactions between the conservation method and the diverse irrigation requirements tied to production decisions, making it difficult to accurately estimate efficiency-based conservation potential in advance of the completed season on a field-by-field basis. This is further complicated by some growers and irrigators who may misunderstand the efficiency-based nature of the on-farm program, and make irrigation decisions that can cause unanticipated crop and or conservation yield impacts.
The draft pilot ABK contract development was initiated by the legal department in 2018 but failed to progress as other projects were designated by the board and management as priority issues for the legal team. These included, but not limited to, the development of the Drought Contingency Plan and related agreements, DCP and Equitable Distribution Program Litigation, land purchase agreements, renewable energy project permitting, and a variety of easements and water re-diversion contracts to facilitate the state’s Salton Sea restoration efforts.
In addition, certain circumstances have changed since the late 2017 ABK pilot program authorization, IID’s access to additional Lake Mead storage was curtailed in 2019 when the DCP was approved without IID, and in 2018 the Metropolitan Water District o Southern California failed to execute the extension of an intra-agency storage agreement with IID. The lack of storage capacity and the final ramp-up of the San Diego County Water Authority transfer volumes have resulted in an over-supply of conservation as well as corresponding financial considerations.
IID is currently working to complete the 2019 contracting process but still needs to develop contract revisions directed by the board to address conservation measures being implemented for the 2020 on-farm program.