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Posted on: November 9, 2022

CVWD takes action to reduce demand on Colorado River

GettyImages-1340779442 Lake Mead

Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) Board of Directors took action to execute an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to conserve Colorado River water by curtailing replenishment at its Thomas E. Levy Groundwater Replenishment Facility (Levy) for the remainder of 2022.

Understanding the need for action, the board also approved submittal of two proposals to USBR to participate in the Lower Colorado Conservation and Efficiency Program (LC Conservation Program) for up to three calendar years (CY 2023 through 2025) with combined conservation up to 35,000 acre-feet per year (af/yr) between the two voluntary, temporary, and compensated programs listed below.  Under the agreement, conserved water would be reimbursed at $400 per acre-foot (af).

Program 1: The Colorado River Water (CRW) Conservation Program seeks to enroll canal water users who can demonstrate a reduction in water use. The CRW Conservation Program was previously approved by CVWD’s Board in June to be administered under the 500+ Plan, but due to external issues with funding partners delayed the program’s implementation. Under the revised program, participants will be paid up to $340/af if they are enrolled for the maximum duration of three years.

Program 2: The Thomas E. Levy Replenishment Facility (TEL) Recharge Curtailment Program (TEL Curtailment Program) will conserve between 25,000 and 35,000 af/yr. The TEL Curtailment Program would be used to supplement the CRW Conservation Program. For example, if the CRW Conservation Program can achieve 10,000 af/yr of water reduction, the TEL Curtailment Program would provide 25,000 af/yr to achieve a total water reduction of 35,000 af/yr. It is contemplated that deliveries to other replenishment facilities could be curtailed as part of this effort to better manage the impacts of the reduced deliveries to only one facility.

“Although delivering water to the Levy Facility is important for CVWD’s groundwater management, temporarily suspending delivery to the facility will allow CVWD to achieve the goal of contributing materially to the River,” said CVWD General Manager Jim Barrett. “CVWD is fortunate to have a diversified water portfolio available to meet the needs of our local communities.”

Discussions are ongoing on what additional demand management actions within CVWD’s service area might be taken to help offset the reduction in recharge at the Levy facility. The water conservation regulations enacted by the State in June required all urban water suppliers to implement conservation actions under Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP), which are meant to reduce demand up to 20%. Based on recent groundwater production by CVWD and other urban water suppliers, successful implementation of Level 2 actions could offset suspending delivery to the Levy facility for the remainder of CY 2022.

“California water agencies are working in real time to build on previous water-saving actions and conserve significant volumes of water each year beginning in 2022 through 2025. We are eager to partner with the Bureau of Reclamation to enable reductions in water use. California calls on our basin partners to join us in finding ways to preserve the health of the Colorado River,” said CVWD Board Director and Chair of the California Colorado River Board, Peter Nelson.

CVWD is well positioned to do its part to conserve water as the conditions worsen on the Colorado River. CVWD has historically taken steps to increase water efficiency on its canal system and to store water for future dry years.

Major conservation actions taken by CVWD include:

  • Investment in its irrigation delivery system to minimize system losses through the use of pipes and also metering 100% of properties served.
  • Use of drip irrigation in about 60% of CVWD’s service area, which allows the average water application to be less than 3.8 acre feet per acre.
  • Lining of a 49-mile section of the Coachella Canal saves 132,000 af/yr.
  • Lining of the remaining 35-mile section of Coachella Canal (in conjunction with San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and San Luis Rey Band of Indians), saves 26,000 af/yr (which is transferred to SDCWA).

CVWD’s federal Colorado River water order is 399,000 af for 2022, which is about 9% of the state’s allocation. About 260,000 af of this is delivered to local farms, and the balance is delivered for environmental mitigation, groundwater replenishment, large landscape irrigation, and for use by other agencies.


Coachella Valley Water District is a public agency governed by a five-member board of directors.  The district provides domestic and irrigation water, agricultural drainage, wastewater treatment and reclamation services, regional stormwater protection, groundwater management and water conservation. It serves approximately 113,000 residential and business customers across 1,000 square miles located primarily in Riverside County, but also in portions of Imperial and San Diego counties.

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