The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Securing Reliable Water Supplies for Future Generations
About 30 percent of the water that flows out of taps in Southern California comes from Northern California via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But the Delta's delivery system is badly outdated, a problem compounded both by a declining ecosystem and 1,100-mile levee system that are increasingly vulnerable. California WaterFix is a comprehensive solution proposed by state and federal agencies to ensure our state has a reliable water supply for many years to come. It would modernize the decades-old delivery system through the building of three new intakes in the northern Delta along with two tunnels to carry water to the existing aqueduct system in the southern Delta.
The estimated cost of California WaterFix is about $15 billion, with Southern California’s share about a quarter of that. But the cost of doing nothing would be greater as the reliability of the state’s single largest water supply, the Sierra snowpack, would remain in jeopardy.
Throughout the summer of 2017, water agencies including Metropolitan Water District, will weigh this decision. They will evaluate the costs and benefits of the project to determine whether Metropolitan should participate in California WaterFix.
The Delta water system is outdated and unreliable. The system relies on levees that are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and rising sea levels under climate change. And when these levees fail, water rushes into the lower-than-sea level islands behind them, pulling in salt water from the bay and fouling water quality before it can be delivered to Southern California, the Bay Area and Central Valley farmland. In addition, powerful existing state and federal pumps are strong enough to cause rivers to flow in reverse. This traps migrating and endangered fish, leading to declines in native fish populations.
"This project has been subjected to 10 years of detailed analysis and more environmental review than any other project in the history of the world. It is absolutely essential if California is to maintain a reliable water supply."
Near the end of 2016, the final environmental analysis for the California WaterFix project was published, representing a decade of scientific study, analysis and public input. The next milestone in the decision-making process, expected in June 2017, is the release of biological opinions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which show the project’s effects on endangered species. This opinion will be followed by the release of the federal Record of Decision and the state’s Notice of Decision, which would allow the project to proceed.
Metropolitan’s Board of Directors will have a series of public meetings to review different components of California WaterFix including the physical project, the proposed water operations and key financial issues. For each of these workshops, staff will release in advance a detailed white paper. An additional workshop is scheduled for August 28. Tentatively, staff is scheduling a Board action on September 12 to decide whether Metropolitan should participate in California WaterFix.