Reclamation Law

Changes Needed Before Water Service Contracts Are Renewed Gao ID: T-RCED-92-13 October 29, 1991

This testimony, which is based on an earlier report (GAO/RCED-91-175, Aug. 22, 1991), addresses changes needed before renewal of long-term water service contracts in the Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project in California. Significant environmental and water use problems are associated with irrigation practices carried out under existing water service contracts. These irrigation practices have contributed to selenium poisoning and increasing salinity in the San Joaquin Valley; some farmers use Central Valley Project water to produce crops that are also eligible for subsidies under Agriculture Department commodity programs; and with 85 percent of the Central Valley Project water dedicated to irrigation under the contracts, the water supply available for wildlife habitat is inadequate. GAO is concerned that renewing the Central Valley Project's 238 contracts for the same quantities of water for up to 40 years could severely hamper efforts to address existing and future problems. GAO recommends that Congress place a moratorium on all Central Valley Project contract renewals, while temporarily extending existing contracts, and amend legislation to explicitly allow contract renewals for lesser quantities of water and shorter periods of time. GAO also recommends that the Department of the Interior fully analyze the impact of contract renewal and alternative contract provisions.

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