Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta

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Sacramento-San Joaquin

Seeking water supply, environmental solutions that work

Few water issues were more prominent during the year than the search for a solution to problems plaguing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, which provides about 20 percent of the San Diego region’s water supply. The Water Authority is committed to finding a solution; it played a major role in raising important questions about the issue, which could have a significant impact on the region’s water supplies and water rates for decades.

When state and federal officials in July declared their preferred alternative for building a large-capacity dual tunnel system under the Bay-Delta, Board Chair Michael T. Hogan called on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to secure firm financial commitments from its member agencies to determine the real demand for water from the Bay-Delta fix and the sources of revenue to pay for the project. Such commitments would protect San Diego County ratepayers from picking up an oversized share of project costs.

In January, the Water Authority joined several other urban water agencies in California to request that the California Department of Natural Resources fully evaluate a “portfolio approach” to fixing the Bay-Delta. Unlike the state’s preferred plan for two conveyance tunnels, the portfolio strategy relies on a smaller, single-tunnel water conveyance system, along with complementary investments in local water supply development, additional south of Delta storage, habitat restoration and more. The state is expected to seek approval for a project in 2014 after completion of the environmental review process.

To help the Board make an informed decision, a multi-disciplinary staff team analyzed Delta fixes advanced by various groups. Reviewed alternatives include the Brown Administration’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan Proposed Action, the portfolio approach, a proposal by the Delta Vision Foundation called BDCP Plus, and a “no-action” alternative. 

In addition to its regular board discussions, the Water Authority sponsored a regional Water Talks forum about the Bay-Delta in February to increase community awareness of the issue. About 80 people attended the event, co-hosted by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Gas & Electric.


Bay-Delta policy principles frame debate

To help ensure Bay-Delta plans provide adequate benefits for San Diego County, the Water Authority is evaluating options for fixing the Bay-Delta under policy principles adopted by the Board in 2012. These principles call for a Bay-Delta fix that:

  • Supports the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and environmental restoration
  • Integrates and bolsters development of local water resources
  • Provides regulatory certainty for water supplies
  • Encourages development of a statewide market for water transfers
  • Seeks cost-effective solutions
  • Identifies total project costs before funding decisions are made
  • Allocates costs to stakeholders in proportion to benefits received
  • Requires firm financial commitments and funding streams through take-or-pay contracts or equivalent means

The Bay-Delta