Unlike their counterparts in parts of the Central Valley, growers in the California desert should be in good shape this season when it comes to securing ample water to irrigate their crops, thanks in part to the Quantification Settlement Agreement for Colorado River water that was finalized in 2003.

The historic agreement provides California the means to implement water transfers and supply programs that will allow California to live within the state’s 4.4 million acre-foot basic annual apportionment of Colorado River water, said Franz De Klotz, vice president of marketing for Richard
Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, managing partner at the company’s Pasha Marketing LLC division and a member of the Coachella Valley Water District’s board of directors.

In addition, growers employ drip irrigation, “ensuring good stewardship regarding our valley’s water supply,” he said.

Water from the Colorado River is delivered by telemetry through the Coachella Canal into reservoirs and eventually pumped into field through drip lines.

The Quantification Settlement Agreement has locked in the amount of water delivered to the Coachella and Imperial valleys.

“So far that agreement has held up in court,” De Klotz said, and he is confident that it will remain intact into the future.

The only glitch in the water delivery system is that the valleys’ allotment from the Sacramento delta has been cut back, which affects the region’s ability to recharge underground aquifers and balance out the water needs, he said.

The Imperial Valley, to the south, receives 3.1 million acre feet under the Quantification Settlement
Agreement and the Coachella Valley receives 330,000 acre feet.

One acre foot of water equals 326,000 gallons.

Just because desert growers currently have adequate water doesn’t mean they’re squandering the precious liquid.

“Water’s a valuable commodity that’s in a lot of conversations that the owners of our company have,” said John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler for Peter Rabbit Farms in Coachella.

“We’re constantly finding new ways to better manage our irrigation system,” he said.

The goal is to get as much water as is needed to the plants’ root systems without wasting any, he said.
That calls for steps like installing improved sprinklers and better drip irrigation systems.

“It never stops,” Burton said. “We’re always looking for better ways to water our crops.”

At Prime Time International in Coachella, Mike Aiton, director of marketing, said the company has plenty of water for now but is not letting its guard down.

“We’re always concerned about water,” he said. “It’s kind of your lifeblood.”

In the Imperial Valley, Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing for Five Crowns Marketing in Brawley, said, “we have a very good water situation here.”

The region has the necessary water rights and has built an efficient delivery system, he said, “so we’re in good shape.”

The only bad news is the cost.

“Our water costs in general are going up, and we are going to have to account for that,” he said.