Monday, January 2, 2017

Final WaterFix EIR/EIS Shifts Incremental Water Supplies from Central Valley Project (Farms) to State Water Project (Cities)

I spent some of my holiday break reviewing the recently released Final EIR/EIS for the California WaterFix.  My goodness, that is a long and boring report even when you are just skimming key chapters and tables.  However, I did find one important change from the 2015 Revised Draft EIR/EIS.
Compared to No Action, building the WaterFix is now projected to increase water supply to the State Water Project by an average of 186,000 acre feet per year, and decrease water supply to Central Valley Project south of Delta users by 14,000 acre feet per year.  While this is a slight decrease from the total exports estimated in the 2015 draft EIR, it is a large change in the distribution between agricultural and urban users.  The numbers in the table below are from Table 5-12 in the Final EIR/EIS and Table B1-3 of the 2015 Revised Draft EIR/EIS.  The Final EIR/EIS only presents one scenario, eliminating the range from earlier drafts.

Change in Annual Average Water Supply From WaterFix Compared to No Action Alternative (acre feet)
Final EIR/EIS  Draft RDEIR/RDEIS High Scenario Draft RDEIR/RDEIS Low Scenario
Total SWP South of Delta 186,000 398,000 -97,000
Total CVP South of Delta -14,000 106,000 66,000
Combined 172,000 504,000 -31,000

I don't have any insight into why the CVP/SWP distribution changed, but these modeling results would seem to set the stage for the what I (and others) have long anticipated.  CVP agricultural contractors will drop out of the tunnels/WaterFix due to the cost and minimal water yield.

The tunnels are more financially feasible if all the incremental water goes to the urban-dominated State Water Project, but they still represent a very poor return on investment for urban water users for the $16+ billion in capital cost: only about 10,000 acre feet of annual water supply per $1 billion in capital investment.

Metropolitan Water District is still telling their board that they won't pay more than 25-30% of the tunnels cost. Realistically, I think the only way the tunnels are built is as an urban project - with MWD probably paying about 90% of the cost.  Maybe now that we have a final EIR/EIS, we can finally see a realistic financial plan and an honest assessment of project feasibility.

1/3 10AM Table corrected:  An observant reader let me know that I reversed CVP and SWP in the table.  They also told me not to put too much stock in these modeling results which depend on many things that remain in flux.

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