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Metropolitan Water District approves 4.3 billion for Delta water tunnels




A group of public water agencies has asked the state to order farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to stop irrigating their crops amid the relentless drought.
A group of public water agencies has asked the state to order farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to stop irrigating their crops amid the relentless drought.
Photo by Daniel Parks via Flickr Creative Commons

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It's official. The California Water Fix project, intended to bring water from Northern California's Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California, will live to see another day. 

After some suspense, the board of SoCal's Metropolitan Water District, or MWD, voted Tuesday to spend $4.3 billion to help build the project's underground tunnels.

Ultimately, the vote came down to "cost as well as reliability," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, MWD's general manager. "In other words, how much water would this truly end up delivering to us? And there is a fair amount of uncertainty with that last question, so our board expressed a fair number of concerns with that." MWD has already invested roughly $70 million to get to this point in the process. 

Kightlinger, a longtime supporter of the project, says the added benefit for MWD is that the burden of the cost is shared over 19 million customers. "At the end of the day, it works out to about two dollars a month for your typical household on their water bill," Kightlinger said. "In LA city, for instance, it'll be about $1.70."

While MWD's participation is critical to the project moving forward, its future remains uncertain. Partnering agencies in Silicon Valley and Kern County still have to vote on their commitments to the so-called Delta Tunnels. Once construction is approved, Kightlinger says the tunnels will take about a decade to complete. 

To hear the full interview with Jeffrey Kightlinger about MWD's decision to fund the Delta Tunnels, click on the media player above.