California WaterFix: Decision Day Approaches

Gary Toebben

August 8, 2017

When it comes to the weather, we were fortunate this year. Northern California had record rain and snow, and this allowed Southern California to partially refill its reservoirs and groundwater banks. But we cannot count on that amount of moisture every year. Many years, our statewide water system struggles to capture storm flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to send to the south.

There is a solution. It’s called California WaterFix. For more than 10 years, state and federal officials have been working on a plan to improve this vital section of our statewide water system. In the coming months, water agencies from Silicon Valley to San Diego will decide whether to support the California WaterFix and modernize our decades-old state water system.

The failure of the Oroville Dam spillway this winter was a stark reminder of the state’s aging infrastructure. The scene could be even more dramatic if the Delta water system becomes unusable due to an earthquake or other event that collapses some of the levees. The collapse would prompt a surge of salt water from the San Francisco Bay and render the Delta’s water supply undrinkable.

California WaterFix would protect the State's economy by constructing two water intake pipes north of the Delta in the Sacramento River, away from the vulnerable levee. Water would be transported about 30 miles south through twin tunnel pipelines. This new conveyance would protect the Delta ecosystem and native species with state-of-the-art fish screens. After a decade of planning and engineering, and a quarter billion dollars, California WaterFix has emerged as the safest and most sophisticated water project California has ever seen.

Managing water in California is challenging, given the many stakeholders and diverse perspectives. Yet there is a glaring need to improve the existing system for the sake of the Delta's environment and our state's economy. We have made great progress using conservation and expanding our local water supplies, but Southern California still gets 30 percent of its water via the Delta and the State Water Project. For some portions of our region, like the San Fernando Valley, this is the only source of imported water that can reach their treatment facilities.

Public water agencies, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, are thoroughly reviewing all the details, costs and benefits of this project. Metropolitan sponsored three public workshops during the summer and a final decision by their Board of Directors could come as soon as September. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for California water -- a resource that is fundamental to our future. Now is the time to say yes.

And that's The Business Perspective.

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