Even a single water tunnel burrowed under the California’s Delta would be worth it for urban ratepayers and farmers who would to pay to build and maintain the project, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
The Sacramento Bee reports that the Department of Water Resources commissioned David Sunding, a professor of natural resource economics at UC Berkeley, to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of Brown’s Delta tunnels project. His report concludes that benefits outweigh the costs to ratepayers in every scenario he analyzed under a one-tunnel approach.
After key San Joaquin Valley agricultural districts announced last year they couldn’t afford the project, Brown’s administration announced last week that officials were moving forward on a phased-in approach to the tunnels, starting with building a single pipe under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the coming years. The tunneling project is officially known as California WaterFix.
Every dollar spent on the project would bring $1.82 in benefits under the most favorable projections, Sunding said.
Even under less favorable projections, Sunding said the one-tunnel project still “pencils out” for farms and cities who rely on water pumped from the Delta. Urban water districts benefit the most because they can spread the costs out over millions of ratepayers, Sunding said.
There are fewer benefits for agricultural districts in the San Joaquin Valley where few hundred farmers would face a much more pronounced water-cost hike, but Sunding said San Joaquin Valley agriculture wouldn’t lose money on the investment.
“For ag it is a bit more of a close call,” Sunding said. “But under all the different combinations of assumptions that I analyzed, the benefits are greater than the costs for agriculture.”
Only personal greed stands in the way of the project now.