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Study: Bay Delta Scheme to Yield $5 Billion in Benefits to Water Users

The California Natural Resources Agency on May 29 released a preliminary cost/benefit analysis of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), finding Governor Brown’s proposed twin tunnel alternative is a smart, much-needed and solid investment – expected to cost $24.5 billion (design, construction, O&M, mitigation and habitat restoration) during its 50-year implementation and would result in net benefits of $5 billion (water supply reliability, water quality improvements and reduced seismic risk) over the 50-year period to water users. Public water agencies, the primary beneficiaries, are expected to pay an estimated 68 percent, or approximately $16 billion, of the total project cost.

“California’s primary water delivery system is vulnerable to earthquakes and the impacts of climate change, and Governor Brown’s Delta water plan clearly delivers a strong return on investment,” said Rich Atwater, executive director for the Southern California Water Committee.

The BDCP is a joint state and federal effort to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) ecosystem and build new, more reliable and environmentally compatible water supply infrastructure to deliver water to 25 million Californians, 3 million acres of farmland and businesses throughout the state. The plan includes extensive habitat restoration and a water delivery system — a set of twin tunnels — that would divert a portion of water at a point on the Sacramento River north of the Delta. The plan is being designed to meet the needs of the environment, people and the economy for the next 50 years.

SCWC’s financial analysis finds the construction cost pales in comparison to previous water infrastructure investments, in relation to the assessed value of the communities throughout California that will be protected by BDCP. Two examples are the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA) system for Southern California in the 1930s and the State Water Project in the 1960s that now serves communities from Silicon Valley to San Diego.

BDCP investments are also comparable to other ongoing water reliability projects, such as the current upgrade of the City of San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system for portions of the Bay Area and the Central Coast extension of the SWP, when considered on a per-capita basis.

Southern California boasts world-class conservation programs, including water recycling, stormwater capture, brackish water/desalination, and groundwater management – pursuing all innovative options to increase local supplies. However, these programs and projects cannot replace imported water supplies that pass through the Delta.

“The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a smart investment that will improve our water supply reliability and help restore the ailing Delta and is comparable in cost to other major water infrastructure efforts in California,” added Atwater.

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