Environmentalists were concerned that the habitats created by agricultural activity and water use in the Imperial Valley would shrink and jeopardize certain endangered species dependent on the Imperial Valley's water use if IID changed the manner that it used its Colorado River water. IID was concerned that the costs of increasing the efficiency of water use and mitigating the environmental impacts of changes in water use were beyond the affordability of Imperial Valley water users. The QSA and Related Agreements created a consensual contractual framework to address all of these issues plus others.
Negotiations for the QSA and Related Agreements commenced in the late 1980's, when IID and SDCWA met to negotiate a conserved water transfer agreement. By 1998, IID and SDCWA had approved the terms of the ID/SDCWA Transfer Agreement; a long-term agreement for IID to generate and transfer conserved water to SDCWA in exchange for a negotiated price formula, and subject to environmental review and mitigation, SWRCB approval and BOR consent. IID and SDCWA commenced efforts in 1998 to obtain environmental compliance and SWRCB and BOR approvals.
Many interested and potentially affected parties expressed concerns about the potential adverse impacts of the IID/SDCWA Transfer on their particular interests, and starting in mid-1998, negotiations for the QSA and Related Agreements commenced. Discussions included at various times and to varying degrees representatives of California's Colorado River water right holders, the California Departments of Water Resources, Agriculture and Fish & Game, and the California Legislature. Representatives of the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and each of the other six Colorado River Basin States also participated. Environmental interest groups, the County of Imperial, the California and local farm bureaus, and other farming representatives also participated at various stages of the negotiations. Negotiations were facilitated by sequence of public leaders including DWR Directors Kennedy and Hannigan, Interior Assistant Secretaries Hayes and Raley, BOR Regional Director Johnson, former Speaker of the California Assembly Hertzberg, and special California Governor advisor Richard Katz.
The SWRCB held several workshops, two weeks of evidentiary hearings during 2002, and after lengthy briefing and argument, issued in December 2002 its decision approving the IID/SDCWA conserved water transfer, subject to certain environmental mitigation conditions. Various drafts of the QSA and Related Agreements were circulated and discussed at public workshops and water conferences from 1998 and thereafter, and environmental review documents were circulated and finalized in 2002. When agreement terms could not be resolved to the satisfaction of all contracting and approving entities by the end of 2002, the Secretary of Interior in December 2002 reduced IID's 2003 water order by almost 300,000 AF and agreed to deliver that volume to MWD and CVWD. IID brought suit in January 2003, and by March 2003 had obtained a preliminary injunction restoring the IID 2003 water order. Negotiations re-commenced, and by October 2003, the QSA and Related Agreements were in a form acceptable to and approved by all the contracting parties.