The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve its initial share of funding for the California WaterFix, or about 26% of the $16.7 billion investment plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The project is intended to upgrade the state’s existing water delivery system by constructing a pair of water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta that would divert water into the State Water Project.
Foothill Municipal Water District — which serves the communities of La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta and Altadena — receives imported water from MWD, including supplies that travel through the Bay Delta. Each community varies in its reliance on imported water, but overall imported supplies constitute about 60% of all water use within the service area, according to FMWD officials.
“It sends a signal that Metro is investing in this facility,” said Nina Jazmadarian, general manager of the FMWD. “Now we’ll see what the other contractors do. There’s still five or six more in the next few days that are going to be voting on this, but it’s a good starting point for us.”
Jazmadarian said she’s a proponent of the project, because it increases the reliable water supply and it’s the “lowest-cost option” for doing so.
“But there’s still more that needs to be done,” she said. “We still need recycled water, groundwater recovery, stormwater capture and conservation.”
FMWD Board President Richard Atwater also cheered MWD’s vote, which was 28-6 in favor of the “fix.”
“The project benefits are clear and future generations will continue to receive reliable delta supplies because of the WaterFix,” he said in a statement. “Faced with climate change and other risks to the State Water Project, building the tunnels far outweighs the alternative of doing nothing.”
Critics of the plan suggest that it could have negative effects on the fish in the delta, and that it will raise water rates more than anticipated.
According to FMWD officials, if the California WaterFix is approved by Metropolitan’s Board and other public water agencies and starts, as planned, in 2019, customers can expect the costs to be incorporated in Metropolitan’s rates and charges as soon as 2019. The initial impact is expected to be small as the full impact ramps up slowly and peaks around 2033, when the project is completed and fully operational, assuming the project is completed according to plan.
Agencies that use more imported water will experience the higher end of the rate impacts. For example, Mesa Crest Water Co. is 100% reliant on imported water, so La Cañada Flintridge residents in that service area are likely to pay more for the water service they receive, according to Daniel Drugan, a FMWD water program technician.
L.A. Department of Water and Power indicated its rates would increase by $1.73 per month over the median $60 monthly amount.
“It’s depending on our agencies and how much water they’re taking and how they decide to pass rates through to their customers,” Jazmadarian said.
— Mirjam Swanson