This week, the Los Angeles City Council announced plans to officially oppose the construction of a $17 billion water tunnel project if it would result in higher costs or a greater share of the burden for L.A. residents.
In February, California water officials announced staged construction of the California Waterfix project. This has left city water agencies with a decision as to whether they will support the project.
The California Waterfix tunnels would pull water from the Sacramento River in Northern California at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The water would be transported to federal and California pumping stations through a pair of 35-mile tunnels.
The California Department of Water Resources faces a funding shortfall for the project and announced it will pursue staged construction, beginning with the construction of just one tunnel at an initial cost of $10.7 billion.
Last year, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California committed $4.3 billion to the project and this support was viewed as key to the success of the Waterfix project. Another major water agency, the Westlands Water District, voted against funding for the Waterfix project.
The Metropolitan Water District and the Los Angeles Aqueduct together supply about 85% of the water for Los Angeles. The MWD is funded through its water prices and property taxes. Its decision to help pay for the project could affect the rates Los Angeles residents pay for water.
The latest vote by the LA City Council will direct the legislative analyst for the city to oppose the MWD’s involvement if the proposal would create a greater financial burden for ratepayers in Los Angeles. The City Council cannot control the MWD board, but it can advise how it votes.
The MWD is now exploring whether the district will pick up the unfunded portion to construct both tunnels, which would cost it about $11 billion.
The two tunnels would cost ratepayers in Los Angeles an average of $1.73 per month, according to a report by the city’s Office of Public Accountability. A nonprofit environmental advocacy group called Food and Water Watch estimates the cost would be higher, increasing water bills by $7 to $16 per month for at least four decades.