On April 10, 2018, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) took a historic vote. The nation’s largest metropolitan water district voted to pay for the lion’s share of costs to construct new water conveyance tunnels that would assist in moving water from Northern California to Southern California. The California WaterFix project involves the construction of two tunnels―each one 35 miles long, 40 feet in diameter and placed 150 feet underground―to convey as much as 18,000 acre feet per day of water. An acre foot is sufficient to serve two to three families per year. Currently the state of California is conducting extensive multiyear hearings to determine whether a water permit should be issued to allow this new conveyance to occur. Currently, this water is conveyed down rivers through the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, through sloughs that were constructed almost 150 years ago to allow the Bay-Delta Estuary area to be farmed.
Over the years, environmentalists have contended that this through-delta conveyance of water has caused problems for fisheries and water quality. Over 20 million Californians and millions of acres of agricultural rely on the water system. California’s economy is one of the largest in the world and the state grows about 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables.
The current cost estimate for the project is approximately $17 billion. It will take about 14 years to design, permit and construct. The proponents argue that the project is necessary to provide a reliable water supply to the Silicon Valley, central coast and Southern California. Further, there are fishery benefits by separating water supply operations from fish habitat and migration corridors. The water supply aspects of the project would be paid for by the beneficiaries.