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California's WaterFix has slimmed down but SoCal will still gets its water, says MWD GM




A third of Southern California's water comes from the Bay Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers merge, and where water from the north of the state mixes with water that meets in the San Francisco Bay.
A third of Southern California's water comes from the Bay Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers merge, and where water from the north of the state mixes with water that meets in the San Francisco Bay.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Governor Jerry Brown's Delta tunnel plan is moving ahead but on a smaller scale.  The project, officially known as the California WaterFix, would use a tunnel to bring water to Southern California from the San Joaquin River Delta. 

Brown's administration said late Wednesday that for the time being it would build only one tunnel, instead of two. 

The second tunnel isn't certain but it's likely to follow in the future, according to Jeffery Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has long supported the project.

Kightlinger said Southern California will have water whether or not the second tunnel is built, but other areas may be affected, and that should be a concern for all Californians. 

"We are one state, our economies are intertwined, our agriculture economy is a huge sector... so we have to start thinking of this not as regions abut as one state."

He explained that a funding shortfall led to the project being downsized. The WaterFix requires buy-in, and financial support, from the state's local water districts, and not all were willing to pay for it.

"You had a group of farmers in the Central Valley that took a look at this project and decided while they supported it, they liked the idea, they felt they simply couldn't afford it on the types of crops they grow."

Even with the project scaled down to one tunnel, there isn't enough cash to pay for the plan, but Kightlinger said he was confident the extra funds would be found. 

Kightlinger's MWD has already pledged to pay a little more than $4 billion for the project but consumers won't be hit hard by the tunnel's costs, Kightlinger said. The average household will only see a $2 increase on their monthly bill.