View of a canal in Imperial Valley on Nov. 15, 2022.
View of a canal in Imperial Valley on Nov. 15, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

In a landmark deal 20 years ago, San Diego secured a lifeline by purchasing Colorado River water from farmers in Imperial Valley. This agreement, known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), reshaped water dynamics in California.

The deal helped California limit the water it took from the Colorado River and it capped, for the first time, how much Imperial Valley took. They sold the rest to San Diego. For 20 years, this has helped safeguard San Diego from drought.

But it also led to high water bills, making it one of the most expensive cities for water in the country.

That’s because farmers in Imperial Valley benefit from gravity-fed irrigation systems, receiving Colorado River water at low prices. San Diego, though, pays a premium to have the water transported through lengthy aqueducts.

Our MacKenzie Elmer reports that, 20 years later, San Diego officials still think it was a good deal and now, they’re hoping to attract investors from across the American West to buy into San Diego’s water assets.

But a lot of rules would have to change for San Diego to start trading or leasing water.

In the meantime, critical agreements governing the Colorado River, involving California, Arizona, Nevada, and more, are set to expire in just two years. They may need to make a deal much like what Southern California crafted 20 years ago.

Read the full story here.

Politifest Presents: The Quantification Settlement Agreement’s 20th Anniversary

Farm workers at Jack Brothers, Inc. farm in Imperial Valley on Nov. 15, 2022.
Farm workers at Jack Brothers, Inc. farm in Imperial Valley on Nov. 15, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

We’re only a few days away from Politifest 2023, and Saturday’s event will be all about water and housing, including a discussion about that famous water deal, the Quantification Settlement Agreement.

Our Scott Lewis will be leading a conversation about the history and impacts of that historic deal, and where it’s headed.

He’ll be joined by representatives from the Metropolitan Water District, the San Diego County Water Authority, the Imperial Irrigation District and an expert on the Salton Sea.

Get your tickets here.

Bait and Switch: Sports Arena Investors Decide They Can’t Do What They Promised

There is no official deal, yet, on developing the city’s nearly 40 acres of land at the Sports Arena site in Midway. The developers the City Council chose and city staff are in negotiations. Eventually they’ll present a deal to the City Council it can accept or reject.

But, as the Union-Tribune first reported, in a quarterly update to the San Diego City Council, the city’s real estate director reported that the development partnership with whom the city is negotiating, known as Midway Rising, has decided it can’t deliver what it promised when it won the bid. It won’t be building a hotel nor will it deliver 250 middle-income housing units. They will have to be market rate instead.

Councilmembers Marni von Wilpert, Raul Campillo and Vivian Moreno ripped the development team and Penny Maus, the director of real estate and airport management, calling it essentially a bait and switch.

The change is the first reported since Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets and many other ventures and venues, became the primary investor in the project.

Border Report: Crossing Could Be as Easy as Riding a Bike 

CEO, World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024, Carlos de la Mora at the signing ceremony designating San Diego and Tijuana as World Design Capital 2024, hosted by the World Design Organization in downtown on May 26, 2023.
CEO, World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024, Carlos de la Mora at the signing ceremony designating San Diego and Tijuana as World Design Capital 2024, hosted by the World Design Organization in downtown on May 26, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

As Tijuana and San Diego prepare to jointly share the spotlight as the World Design Capital, business leaders and cycling advocates are championing a bike lane that could link both cities. 

Voice contributor Sandra Dibble in the latest Border Report writes that the idea is one that proponents believe could have a lasting impact. Tijuana’s cycling activists have for years pushed for improved bike lanes in the city, which currently only has two bikeways that together measure 8 miles. 

This isn’t the first time: Dibble writes that crossing the border on a bike was once easy. Back in the late 1990s she used to join friends on cross-border bike rides. But years later, and with new policies, cyclists traveling from Tijuana to San Diego have to walk their bikes across with pedestrians. 

Read the Border Report here. 

In Other News 

  • CARE Court, a new system that makes it easier to compel people with serious mental illnesses into treatment, launched in San Diego on Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom created it as a way to address the state’s homelessness crisis, but critics say vulnerable people could be forced into treatment by way of conservatorship, and it’s still unclear how many homeless people will actually be helped. (KPBS) Related: Our Lisa Halverstadt has previously reported about San Diego’s severe lack of resources when it comes to treating long-term behavioral health patients. The launch of CARE Court will come with big challenges for the county including coming up with treatment and housing.
  • There’s been a spike in the number of Chinese migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in the past few months, and they are increasingly traveling through San Diego County. Chinese immigrants are still a small portion of the overall number of migrants and asylum seekers, but an economic downturn in China is likely the reason for the recent increase. (Union-Tribune)
  • About 4,500 Kaiser Permanente workers are expected to strike on Wednesday, as part of a nationwide strike that is estimated to include 75,000 Kaiser workers nationwide. Contract negotiations between the Service Employees International Union, which represents the workers, and Kaiser Permanente were set to end Sunday, but continued through Monday. (Union-Tribune)
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has chosen Laphonza Butler, the president of EMILY’s List, to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away Friday. (NBC News)
  • Public transit will be free in San Diego County on Wednesday as the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD) celebrate Free Ride Day. (KPBS)

The Morning Report was written by Tigist Layne, Scott Lewis and Andrea Lopez-Villafana.

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1 Comment

  1. aha! already the Midway Rising “pigeons” are coming home to roost.
    Mayor Gloria: go back to square one and ask for ALL 5 original bidders to submit NEW BIDS with acknowledgement of this new reality.

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