Friday, December 18, 2009

CASE STUDY: All About California's State Water Project

By Ray C. Subs

With California's third year of drought and the resulting limitations and problems the water shortage has caused, many people are probably wondering about the process of water going from a lake to your home. California's State Water Project (CSWP) is the conduit used for this process. There are currently 29 water suppliers in California. These suppliers provide clean, quality water to both "urban users and ... agricultural users." A system of "reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants, and pumping plants", CSWP is the nation's largest "water and power development and conveyance system."

Presently comprised of thirty-four lakes, reservoirs, and other storage facilities, twenty-four pumping plants, five hydroelectric power plants, and over seven hundred miles of pipeline, the Water Project provides clean H2O to over twenty million Californians and over six hundred thousand acres of agriculture.

The purpose of CSWP is not only to store and distribute clean water to its population, but also to "improve water quality in the Delta, control Feather River flood waters, provide recreation, and enhance fish and wildlife." That is a lot for one project to accomplish so California's Department of Water Resources oversees and aids the Project.

With all that the CSWP is responsible for, what is their annual cost? Including the salaries of a diverse company of biologists, hydroelectric technicians, engineers, specialists in water development, and other civil workers as well as expenses such as supplies and equipment the total annual cost is around six hundred million dollars. While this might seem expensive, seventy-eight percent of the financing needed to construct the State Project were raised from the sale of "general obligation and revenue bonds.

Other funding sources have included tideland oil revenues, investment earnings, legislative appropriations for recreation, federal flood control payments, and water contractor advances." In addition the 29 water suppliers pay the CSWP for "all water supply related costs." This covers over ninety percent of the annual costs for the Project. Due to their involvement with fish and wildlife California's State government supplies a percentage of the annual costs as well. The federal government provides the rest in exchange for "joint operation of [the] San Luis facilities."

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