The Stream, June 19, 2020: California Farmers Have Constitutional Rights to Imperial Valley Water, Judge Rules

The Global Rundown

Power struggles continue in California’s tense Imperial Irrigation District. A new proposal calls for the prime ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to broker continued negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The U.S. Senate passes a major conservation bill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) elects not to set drinking water standards for perchlorate, a rocket fuel additive. A third round of flooding this year strikes homes in Wales.

“I’m going to move. I have had enough. I can’t do this again. It smells of damp in here. It upsets me. The water didn’t get in this time but I can’t do this anymore. This is the third time this year. I didn’t sleep all night. I have only just had the carpet put down after the last lot of floods.” —Sharon Williams, a resident of Pentre, Wales, in reference to floodwaters that struck parts of southern Wales for the third time this year. Heavy storms led to significant flooding at nearly 200 properties in an area that also flooded twice during storms in February. BBC

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By The Numbers

3.1 million acre-feet Amount of the Colorado River’s annual flow that is allocated to California’s Imperial Irrigation District. The amount represents about 20 percent of the river’s allocated water, and is equivalent to the combined amount received by Arizona and Nevada. The District, however, has long been embroiled in power struggles among residents, farmers, and the irrigation district board. In a hearing last week, a California judge ruled that Imperial Valley farmers hold a “constitutionally protected property right” to the water, and that the Imperial Irrigation District has only a limited ability to alter the amount of water used by the area’s agricultural industry. Los Angeles Times

$900 million Amount that would be allocated each year to the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund under a key bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate this week. If enacted into law, the Great American Outdoors Act would guarantee the $900 million in yearly funding to the conservation fund to acquire and protect public lands. Reuters 

Science, Studies, and Reports

The U.S. EPA has officially decided against setting federal drinking water standards on perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel additive. The EPA argues that perchlorate does not meet the criteria for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and that levels are not high enough to pose a serious health threat. Environmental groups questioned this decision, noting that perchlorate does have known health effects. Bloomberg Law 

On the Radar

Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began on June 9, but are stalled once again. Sudan has suggested that the prime ministers of the three nations meet directly to discuss the technical and legal issues at play. Reuters 

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