Metropolitan Water District of Southern California leadership increases the possibility of much-needed relief for California’s aging water-supply infrastructure.

By Paul N. Singarella, Daniel P. Brunton, and Lucas I. Quass

The California WaterFix is the most expensive, important, and controversial water infrastructure project in California, and perhaps the country, in decades. At a price tag of US$16.3 billion, WaterFix is designed to restore reliability to an aging water-supply infrastructure that serves 25 million Californians and more than three million acres of California farmland. WaterFix can be thought of as an insurance policy for the California economy, and indeed society at large, against possible — and potentially catastrophic — further loss of this critical water supply. An historic July 10 vote by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) was a major step forward, and vote of confidence, for WaterFix, increasing the likelihood that the promise of WaterFix will be realized.

The Evolution of California WaterFix

Together, the State Water Project (SWP) and the Central Valley Project (CVP) form the largest water supply system in the country. This system diverts water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and conveys it hundreds of miles to places like Silicon Valley, Southern California, and otherwise parched farmland that cannot survive on local supplies alone. The Delta is the lynchpin of this system, the gateway through which virtually all water conveyed from the Northern California rivers to the rest of the state must pass. The Delta is used this way because the SWP/CVP system was never completed. Original planning decades ago proposed to run fresh river water around the Delta. Instead the water enters the Delta where it mixes with brackish Delta water before it is diverted.