Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors endorses California WaterFix, a $4.3 billion investment

By on October 12, 2017
California WaterFix tunnels

The 38-member Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) Board of Directors met Tuesday and voted in support of California WaterFix. The proposed California WaterFix is Governor Jerry Brown’s answer for upgrades in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to secure California’s water supplies now and for the foreseeable future and to improve the Delta’s ecosystem.

Board Chairman Randy Record hailed the board’s vote on Tuesday saying, “Every generation of Southern Californians has to reinvest in our water system to ensure a reliable water future. Today marks one of those historic votes that reaffirms that commitment and vision. We simply must modernize and improve the reliability of our imported supplies as well as meet the needs of growth by developing more local supplies and extending conservation.”

A joint state-federal project, California WaterFix is regarded as a way to modernize the state’s decades-old water delivery system. The proposed project will include building three new intakes in the northern Delta along with dual 35-mile-long tunnels to carry water to the existing south Delta pumping plants for the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP). It will upgrade the state’s outdated water system and maintain a reliable source of water for 25 million Californians and more than 3 million acres of farmland in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California.

MWD’s board approved the district’s 26 percent share of financing the California WaterFix project as well as moving forward on a governance structure to build and finance the $17 billion project. Metropolitan’s share is about $4.3 billion. Approximately 30 percent of the water that flows out of taps in Southern California comes from Northern California via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The Delta’s current delivery system is badly outdated and regarded by many as unreliable and inefficient. It is dependent on 50-year-old levee system that covers some 1,100 miles throughout the state. The system is increasingly vulnerable to earthquakes, environmental degradation, flooding, saltwater intrusion and climate change.

Shortly after MWD’s vote affirming their participation in WaterFix, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird released a statement praising MWD’s decision. “(The) vote by Metropolitan Water District’s board members shows leadership and a commitment to the region’s water supply future,” said Laird. “WaterFix is this generation’s opportunity to protect critical water supplies from certain decline. Metropolitan’s investment will provide water supply reliability for the region’s residents and economy.”

Although California WaterFix has been more than a decade in planning, the MWD Board has spent several months of public review. In July and August, the board engaged in discussions examining the mammoth project’s construction, operations, benefits and cost based on a series of policy white papers. The Los Angeles-based water agency has received hundreds of public comments and letters on the project, responding to dozens of inquiries in a 28-page document as part of the vetting process.

“Given our size, Metropolitan is the anchor tenant for any successful California WaterFix, and this vote puts us on record as being ready and willing to participate. We still have a ways to go before we have a final, fully funded project, but this vote keeps WaterFix on the path to finding a viable and lasting solution,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said.

Metropolitan joins a number of water agencies in the state to vote in favor of participation in California WaterFix including the boards of Crestline-Lake Arrowhead Water Agency, Desert Water Agency, Mojave Water Agency, San Bernardino Municipal Water District, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, and the Zone 7 Water Agency. The Kern County Water Agency Board of directors is scheduled to vote on the proposed project on Thursday.

Notable, however, is the vote on Sept. 20 by the Westlands Water District not to participate in California WaterFix. Westlands, the largest agricultural water district in the U.S., claims the project is not financially viable and has consistently stated it “would not obligate the farmers it serves to billions of dollars in debt without reasonable assurances that the project would produce reliable, affordable water supplies.”