As we all know, water is the lifeblood of California communities. When it is in abundance, it is taken for granted. When it's in short supply, it's the number one topic of discussion among politicians, newspapers and business readers. We at the Imperial Irrigation District understand this and, therefore, the bias from which The Times was coming in its editorial "It's Outrageous" (Nov. 11).
But, while we understand The Times perspective, let me correct some errors and state the facts.
The IID for more than three years has been negotiating with MWD to supply a dependable source of water to compensate for the Colorado River water MWD is losing to Arizona. We invited MWD to the bargaining table in good faith and have negotiated in an equitable and forthright manner. It is disturbing, however, that at the same time MWD has been misleading the press and public. Let me correct some of these inaccuracies.
IID is not making unreasonable claims. We are simply protecting our ratepayers' interests and setting up a reasonable, logical and fair system for transferring water from the Imperial Valley to areas in need. State law gives us, and any other water district, the right to sell or lease conserved water.
MWD is fighting this concept because it fears such "water ranching" will threaten its status as the most powerful water agency in the state. That, however, should not be MWD's goal. As you stated in your editorial, "The reasons for agreement between Metropolitan and Imperial are too compelling to allow the negotiations to fall apart."
Securing water for its member agencies in a manner that is fair to both provider and receiver should be MWD's primary goal. The "IID Agreement for Transfer of Water" sets aside IID's rights to sell or lease water to MWD but does not give up those rights with others.
MWD is fond of saying, and The Times has repeated, that the Imperial Irrigation District wastes water so it should be forced to turn over its surplus to MWD. IID disputes this. In the last decade, we have implemented substantial conservation programs. The district has concrete lined more than 900 miles of canals to prevent seepage. We have built four holding reservoirs and routinely conduct educational courses for our employees and area farmers on new conservation techniques. Water wasting simply is no longer an issue. What it is is an emotional slogan for MWD to run up the flagpole.
IID operates a business, as MWD operates a business. MWD's 1986 Annual Report says the lowest price for selling water was $197 an acre-foot, its highest was $624 an acre-foot. We are not going to be bullied into handing over what has become one of our primary resources to MWD officials so they can turn around and sell it at twice the price it paid for it.
Water is Imperial County's lifeblood and the reason cattle, hay, melons, lettuce and other crops make Imperial the fourth largest agricultural county in the nation. We will protect our interests, but not so selfishly that we are unwilling to take a fair and reasoned approach to sharing the conserved water. We have spent an equivalent of $75 million, in 1985 dollars, to conserve water.
We hope MWD will recognize its self-interest, deal with it and come to the negotiating table willing to work toward an agreement that will be beneficial and fair to all Southern Californians.
GERALD L. MOORE
Board of Directors
Imperial Irrigation District