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Imperial Valley Agricultural Landowners launch new water mangement system

Brawley, Calif., October 30, 2006 ‹ Faced with changes in water allocations and competing uses of Colorado River water, agricultural landowners and farmers in the Imperial Valley have developed a comprehensive and sophisticated, computer-based system to manage water usage. The Imperial Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, producing more than $1 billion of agricultural products annually.

Called "The Imperial Valley Water Exchange," the system has been developed by The Imperial Group, an informal organization of Imperial County agricultural landowners. The new information system documents current water usage and allows for consideration of alternative scenarios for the allocation of water for agriculture, development, and use in improving the environmental condition of the Salton Sea. The system is based on publicly available information for all 6,000 parcels of agricultural land in Imperial County, and is now operation in a Beta-test format. It is expected to be fully operational by January 2007. The Imperial Group believes that the Imperial Valley Water Exchange will dovetail with the Imperial Irrigation District¹s own Equitable Distribution Plan currently undergoing environmental review. .

"Our county's economy relies on the availability of water for irrigation," says Jon Vessey, a member of the Imperial Group from El Centro, CA. "When agriculture was introduced several generations ago, there was plenty of water for every use," he notes. "That¹s not true any more. Today, we have to carefully manage the allocation and use of water." .

The Imperial Group believes the development of these water-management tools should have been done by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which is responsible for the distribution of water throughout the county. "We just couldn¹t get the IID to provide the tools that are needed to manage water allocation and usage," says Toni Holtz, from Imperial, CA. "We couldn¹t wait any more. So we just did it ourselves." She is quick to point out, "This is a water-management tool for all farmers in the Imperial Valley, not just the Imperial Group." .

The system allows the development of information relating to everything from single parcels of agricultural land to the entire 400,000 acres of agricultural land in the county. The system has been designed to perform a number of essential tasks, including: - determining how much water is available at any given time; - determining where available additional water is within the distribution system; - improving field management to optimize production; - comparing current practices with past practices; - obtaining information regarding specific fields; water gates and canals, soil types and parcel maps. .

Using the system, it's believed that farmers can determine the impact of water utilization, crop selection and other operational variables. They anticipate it will reduce the guess-work out of farming and will aid them in looking at the impact of choices and foster better decisions on the use of land and the water needed to farm it. .

All Imperial Valley farmers have been encouraged to participate in the Beta test of the system. The Imperial Group emphasizes that the information is available for everyone to use, and that it is the first time there is access to information essential for effective water-use management. .

The need for better information on which to base water-usage decisions was documented in a report titled Equitable Distribution Draft Report, written by IID consultant Dr. Michael Hanemann and published in August 2006. Dr. Hanemann was critical of the limited information the IID was using to make operational decisions. .

In addition to the pressing need for better water-management practices, the passage of Proposition 218 in the 1996 statewide election makes it necessary for the landowners to be more involved in local government finances and responsibilities. The Imperial Group's initiative in creating the Imperial Valley Water Exchange is a demonstration of the kind of involvement the proposition encourages. .

The farmers acknowledge that developing the system has been a major undertaking and that they would have liked the IID to have done it. They all agree that water is essential to their livelihood and has to be used carefully and efficiently. .

For more information on the Imperial Valley Water Exchange, visit:

For more information on the IID¹s Equitable Distribution Plan, visit:

About The Imperial Group .

A number of agricultural landowners ‹ organized as The Imperial Group ‹ are challenging the IID's management of water resources and its authority to enter into transfer agreements without participation by the agricultural landowners. They are concerned about issues such as effective water use, responsible allocation of water resources, and irrigation technology. .

Beyond that, The Imperial Group¹s long-term view of economic development in the Imperial Valley supports new jobs, new housing, improved schools, better health care and the attraction of new business to the region. .

For media information or to schedule an interview with a member of The Imperial Group contact: Irv Hamilton e-agency 510-496-2350 [email protected] or Miriam Schaffer e-agency 510-496-2354 [email protected].

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