Just weeks before key votes on a multibillion-dollar state water project, two major questions remain: How much water will the project actually deliver? How much will that water actually cost?
If those sound like the only two things you’d really want to be sure about before investing billions of dollars in a new water project – well, they are.
The project, known as WaterFix, is designed to ensure that water keeps coming south through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, a series of waterways and wetlands fed by snow melting in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. An existing series of canals through the Delta harm fish and are also susceptible to catastrophic damage from an earthquake or rising sea levels.
The project has evolved over the years. In 1982, state officials – including then-Gov. Jerry Brown, during his first stint in office – wanted to build a new canal around the Delta. That was rejected by voters. Now, the plan is to build a pair of 35-mile-long tunnels under the Delta instead. This time around, water agencies – not voters – will decide if the project gets built.
Some of the unknowns surrounding the project may only be answerable when it’s up and running – an engineering and construction feat that will take at least 18 years. By that point, of course, it will be too late.
The Cost Question
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California guesses the project will end up costing the average Southern California household about $2 a month.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
“…Gov. Jerry Brown, during his first stint in office – wanted to build a new canal around the Delta. That was rejected by voters. Now, the plan is to build a pair of 35-mile-long tunnels under the Delta instead. This time around, water agencies – not voters – will decide if the project gets built…”
1.Those pesky voters, who do they think pays for the project anyway.
“…Kightlinger said major decisions like the tunnels take courage because of the unknowns, but his own experience tells him it’s better to build than not. “Decisions like this are always tricky when you’re looking into the future and making investments, but it’s pretty rare you see people say, ‘Gee, I wish we hadn’t built that,’” he said….”
2.When commercial companies make significant errors (Lehman Brothers for example) they go bankrupt. What do you expect will happen if Metropolitan makes significant errors? - It seems they are waiting right now to see if the Supreme Court keeps San Diego on the hook for their bills before proceeding.
“Some of the unknowns surrounding the project may only be answerable when it’s up and running – an engineering and construction feat that will take at least 18 years. By that point, of course, it will be too late.… Metropolitan expects it will end up paying about $1,200 for an acre foot of water. An acre foot is about as much water as two single-family homes use in a year. At that price, the deal looks pretty good to Metropolitan staff, given that San Diego pays about $2,400 for an acre foot of desalinated water these days….”
3.How many times do government projects come in on-time and on-budget vs. two or three times more? It might be better to fund desalinization when needed in San Diego. It will take less than 18 years to get the first water. Also desalinization science is in its early implementation and there are developments on the horizon which would significantly lower cost. I believe the principal cost is the energy used to force sea water through a membrane, which could be reduced for example using grapheme for the membrane. See https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-create-a-graphene-based-sieve-that-turns-seawater-into-drinking-water
“… it also made the water molecules flow way faster through the membrane barrier, which is perfect for use in desalination….”
Compare the first cell phone costing $3,995 to the cost now for cost reductions in desalinization through science and engineering. Science is the way to go, not digging holes and creating bureaucracies.
Regardless if SDCWA supports the project it will benefit greatly by having more consistent flows of imported water from Northern California because this will lower water demands on the Colorado River Aqueduct (SDCWA IID water must be transferred by the CRA) which will add water to Lake Mead (this also benefits Arizona and Las Vegas who get cut off first if Lake Mead goes into a shortage. This will also open up more available water transfers among the agencies that take water from Lake Mead). Another thing, if the Colorado River Aqueduct were to have a significant failure from an earthquake the SDCWA would need large amounts of Northern California Water to make up for their losses.
SDCWA directors criticized that the project has no storage but this year MWD will be able to put 400 TAF into Lake Mead (this water will be used when we have another dry year in Northern California). The Colorado River Aqueduct and Lake Mead were huge reasons why California successfully navigated the worst drought in modern history. The problem from SDCWA view point is they do not look at the State Water Project and the Colorado River Aqueduct as integrated aqueduct systems because it directly contradicts their lawsuit with MWD.