Executive Director Aubrey Bettencourt of the California Water Alliance, a statewide, non-profit, water-policy organization, issued the following statement following a 7-1 vote by Westlands Water District’s Board of Directors not to fund the California Water Fix tunnels project:
“California Water Fix has been troubling from the start,” said Aubrey Bettencourt of CalWA. “The obvious being the classic North-South conflict, but it also emerged to require lots of money — an estimated $16 billion — for a still uncertain amount of water due to vague proposed operations. The reliability and cost of water that would end up flowing to the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California has not been demonstrated to be as great as anyone thought was necessary to solve California’s water supply problems.”
About two-thirds of the state lives south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary, an inland sea that connects California’ plumbing. Conversely, three-quarters of the precipitation that falls on the state occurs in the North. In most years, the south receives five to six million acre-feet of water from the North. All of it flows through the Delta.
“When the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared that some water districts would not contribute to funding the project, too much of the cost fell on Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Westlands Water District and the remaining other urban and agricultural users,” said Bettencourt.
“The proposed cost of water soared from an estimated $160 per thousand acre-feet to over $600. At that cost for water, it isn’t feasible to grow most crops.
Other irrigation and municipal users that would fund the project are still to vote on whether or not they would support the project.
“But, with Westlands vote to not participate in the current project, the concern now is that the funding gap is too great for the other water districts to make up the difference,” continued Bettencourt.
“Unless some compromise can be reached addressing the cost and operational certainty, the governor’s water tunnels project appears to have been a very expensive planning exercise that won’t move forward or contribute a drop to solving California’s pressing need to update, renew and solve its chronic water-supply shortage.”
“That’s a sad outcome for California and Californians, regardless of whether they live north, south or in the Delta, in rural communities or our state’s cities,” she concluded “Having seen a year of water relief, as a state we have a limited window of opportunity to make critical investments in infrastructure and adopt new resource management practices without the distress of another drought looming over us.”