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San Diego County Water Authority’s Board Votes to Conditionally Support WaterFix Project
Voting unanimously to support the state’s current plans for WaterFix, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Board has voted to conditionally support California’s $17 billion proposal to resolve issue within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. The vote was conditional as the SDCWA wants a project financing plan that treats the county’s ratepayers fairly via the through the proper allocation of project costs by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California. Metropolitan is the sole provider of Bay-Delta water for the San Diego region.
“Critical funding questions still must be answered, and today’s vote helps us work with project proponents to address them equitably,” said Mark Muir, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Using our updated policy guidelines, we’ll continue working to protect the interests of local water ratepayers as details emerge.”
The SDC Water Authority’s Bay-Delta supplies are delivered only by MWD. MWD purchases the water from the state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR). In keeping with the state’s historical approach to similar projects, if MWD recoups its WaterFix costs as just water supply fees the Water Authority would be responsible for as little as $73 million. In tandem, the SDC Wter Authority and other retail water agencies would continue to implement local supply projects that reduce Water Authority purchases from MWD.
At issue, and hence the contingency of the Water Authority’s vote to support WaterFix, is whether local costs could soar – to potentially as much as $1.8 billion – if MWD allocates WaterFix costs entirely on transportation charges. The SDC Water Authority is the only agency that uses MWD’s transportation system to transport large volumes of independent water supplies.
Although it is currently undetermined how MWD intends to recoup its costs, the Water Authority’s focus is now on how the WaterFix will be funding. In the meantime, SDC Water Authority is complying with state directives to work toward reducing reliance on the Bay-Delta. From 2013 to 2017, about 13 percent of the Water Authority’s supplies came through the Bay-Delta via the State Water Project, which is operated by the state Department of Water Resources.
The Water Authority’s Board adopted Bay-Delta Policy Principles in 2012 to guide staff in evaluating a wide range of alternative solutions and advocating on behalf of the region. The principles support the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability. The principals seek to find ways for availability and use that are comprehensive, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, widely backed by stakeholders, and fair to Water Authority ratepayers.
The California WaterFix is a proposal to improve the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) State Water Project (SWP) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) Central Valley Project (CVP) joint freshwater storage and delivery system via a science-driven upgrade to the state’s aging water system. Proponents of the proposal claim that WaterFix will provide clean, reliable water while protecting our environment.