Secretary of the Interior
Gale Norton today officially signed the Colorado River Water Delivery
Agreement, a landmark pact that begins a new era of cooperation on the
river by fulfilling a promise California made more than 70 years ago.
"This Agreement marks a historic turning point for California and
the Colorado River Basin States," Norton said after signing the
pact with officials of four California water agencies. "The economy
and well-being of a large part of the growing West rely on critical
agreements, such as this one, that allocate Colorado River water, provide
assurances of long-term supplies, and clear the way for market-based
transfers and other tools that are essential to meet the growing water
needs of the region."
Under Norton's leadership as Secretary of the Interior, California has
agreed to take specific, incremental steps that will reduce its over-reliance
on Colorado River water in the next 14 years, allowing the state to
live within its authorized annual share of 4.4 million acre-feet. The
Agreement allows the six other Colorado River Basin States to protect
their authorized shares to meet future needs.
Federal, state and local officials from the Colorado River Basin States
joined Norton for the signing of the pact at Hoover Dam. Norton said
the venue was particularly appropriate, noting that "in 1928 Congress
required California to 'irrevocably and unconditionally' agree to limit
its annual use of Colorado River water to 4.4.million acre-feet, making
the state's assent a condition for building this magnificent keystone
of the lower Colorado River distribution system. Without California's
1929 promise, there would be no Hoover Dam."
Though California agreed to this limitation in 1929, the state has been
drawing extra or surplus water from the river for the past several decades,
leaving its promise to the other Colorado River Basin States and the
Federal Government unfulfilled. The key to meeting California's commitment
was dividing the state's 4.4 million acre-foot share among its southern
farming and urban communities.
The Agreement signed today is that long-sought quantification - the
Federal Quantification Settlement Agreement - that enables California
to meet the needs of its citizens, urban and rural, in a manner that
respects the rights of other Colorado River Basin States.
The framework to implement the quantification agreement was reached
after years of difficult negotiations. In late 2000, California, the
other six Basin States, and the Department of the Interior agreed on
this framework, known as the Interim Surplus Guidelines. The Guidelines
provided California with a choice as to how it would reduce its over-reliance
on the waters of the Colorado River.
If the state met all of the Guidelines' benchmarks, it would continue
to have access to extra water during the transition to its 4.4 million
acre-foot limit. If California failed to meet a benchmark, it would
immediately lose access to that extra water. Despite the efforts of
many local, state and federal officials, California failed to meet the
first major benchmark under the Interim Surplus Guidelines on Dec. 31,
2002, and automatically lost its access to the extra Colorado River
Since then, negotiations among the four California water agencies, the
Department, and representatives of all seven Colorado River Basin States
have continued, and all parties worked through an astounding series
of difficult issues. "But they persevered," Norton said, "and
as a result of the hard work, dedication, and persistence of those negotiators,
we are here today to celebrate a success for the Colorado River."
By executing this pact, California regains the right to access extra
Colorado water over 14 years, easing its gradual reduction and lessening
pressure on Northern California to send more water south. By reallocating
the state's share, California also will be able to provide water for
its growing cities and address the environmental concerns of the Salton
Sea. The Agreement also allows farming communities in Southern California
to strengthen their economies through water efficiency projects, canal
modernization, conservation, and water marketing.
"For the Basin States, the Agreement provides certainty, allowing
them to protect their authorized allocations and meet their future water
needs," Norton emphasized. "As part of this agreement, and
in reliance on the promises made in the agreement, I have fully reinstated
the Interim Surplus Guidelines," Norton declared.
That will allow Nevada, which lost access to extra water from the Colorado
River along with California, to again have access to this water and
return to the long-term path it has developed to meet the needs of its
The Agreement also provides the critical water supply necessary to resolve
the water rights claims of the La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, Rincon, and San
Pasqual Bands of Mission Indians.
"Because of the hard work, dedication, and persistence of local,
state and federal negotiators over the past nine months as well as over
the last decade, we are here today to execute the hard-won fruits of
these Herculean labors," Norton said. "With this agreement,
conflict on the river is stilled."
"To the countless people who worked long hours, sacrificed weekends
away from family and sat down in good faith to make today's agreement
a reality, I thank you," Norton said.. "People throughout
the West thank you; and future generations in the Colorado River Basin
-from the headwaters to the Lower Basin -- will enjoy the benefits of
Norton said the agreement also demonstrates "what can be accomplished
by working cooperatively -- despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles
-- and by using innovative approaches to find solutions to the water
supply challenges facing communities across the West."