Board to continue discussion of state WaterFix project

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors will continue their examination of the state’s proposed California WaterFix project on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.

The WaterFix project is the state’s proposed improvement to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta infrastructure and is intended to reduce risks to water supplies from failing levees and rising seas, while improving water flow in the south Delta to protect fish.

Water agencies that receive water through the Delta from the state and federal water delivery systems are now deciding whether to support the state’s proposed project.

Over the last several years, the board has hosted several dozen workshops and presentations on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and California WaterFix projects to hear updates and consider diverse perspectives. On the 17th, the board will consider whether to express conditional support for the project. Once other water agencies, including the water district, have determined whether they support the project, the state will assess whether any refinements are needed.

The board will take up the item at a special workshop at 1 p.m. on Oct. 17 in the boardroom at its headquarters at 5700 Almaden Expressway in San Jose.

To learn more about the California WaterFix plan, visit our website.



  1. I’m receiving a lot of information about the benefits of the proposed “California WaterFix” project. It’s a major project which will require unprecedented resources. The proponents for this project make a good case for adopting it. I know it has detractors who are concerned about environmental impacts. It would be really helpful to know what opponents are saying about the project, if their objections are valid and what can be done to address these impacts.


    1. On September 18, I sent an analysis of a more cost-effective, less risky approach to balance future supplies with demand for Santa Clara Water in the futures instead of WaterFix. Here’s our update.
      On 9/18/17 WRATES (Water Rate Advocates for Transparency, Equity and Sustainability) provided each of the Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Water District the details of an alternate plan to WaterFix, based purely on maintaining half of the measured conservation results documented in the SCVWD 2015 UWMP (see below). At that time, we strongly encouraged you to carefully consider our alternate to WaterFix. On October 17, your Board must vote on whether and how much to support WaterFix. Due to additional information acquired since then, we must strongly encourage you to NOT in any manner support the critically flawed WaterFix plan. We do support your pursuing the No Regrets package and the study discussed in your 9/19/17 meeting. We support your focusing on maintaining the conservation gains achieved during the recent drought combined with well evaluated cost effective plans to add to supplies as necessary.
      Here is our updated reasoning.

      a). Based on SCVWD Staff information presented to you in your 9/19/17 meeting:
      In the Water Supply Master Plan 2017 – Project Risks (Attachment 3- page 13), your staff determines that the WaterFix approach was the riskiest of all 13 supply alternatives considered both for severity and likelihood. A few pages later it also showed when considering Cost, Implementation, Operation and Stakeholder Risk, it was dead last in each respect.
      In the Water Supply Master Plan 2017 – PowerPoint (Attachment 4 -page 33), the staff has pointed out that Urban Plan projections are higher than Master Plan projections ( the red line is higher that the green line). This was similar to the position we pointed out in the attachment below. But even using the Master Plan assumptions you show a loss within four years of 80,000 of the 90,000 acre-ft saved annually due to conservation (the blue line at end of 2016 to the green line in 2020). We continue to disagree with the inevitability of that assumption as explained in the attachment. We still believe a concerted effort by the water district costing much less that $600 per acre-ft can easily save half of that amount (comparable to the assumed total amount of WaterFix savings).

      b). On October 6, 2017, the Mercury News reported that a new 91-page report on WaterFix from California’s state auditor, Elaine Howle, shows numerous abnormalities. She said the state Department of Water Resources “has not completed either an economic or financial analysis to demonstrate the financial viability” of the project.” This audit provides additional information to reject WaterFix beyond that shown in the staff risk study above.

      We believe the efforts on reducing demand are also consistent with your stated objective of gaining more local control of water resources and the stated California Water Conservation Act of 2009 requiring focus on “Demand Management measures”. Although, no one can presently determine the detailed impact that climate change will have on any specific changes, it is highly likely that overall global temperature increase will diminish the Sierra snow-pack at some point. This would not only reduce the total water volume passing through the Delta but would also probably diminish the portion of the year that WaterFix remains valuable.

      All indications continue to grow that the board has viable solutions and the Waterfix should not be supported. If your objective is to continue to provide the needs of your customers cost effectively in the decades to come, please vote NO on the WaterFix.

      -The rest of this response is a copy of the original Analysis that went to the Directors on 9/18, referred to above.

      WRATES Conservation Based Demand Reduction Plan: an Alternative to SCVWD Participation in WaterFix


      WRATES study of demand reduction (below) points out that existing planned SCVWD conservation, a WaterFix assumption, is presently on track to achieve the 2040 goals by about 2029, 11 years in advance. This is the 99,000 acre ft assumption used in the three participation scenarios. The continued investment in this effort by SCVWD presently planned and which is now running at $5.7 million per year should be able to add at least enough demand reduction in the remaining 11 years to avoid 25% or more of the 44,300 acre ft per year supply in the most expensive scenario. This remains a cushion as we have not included this amount in our analysis.

      The SCVWD documents used in the analysis are as follows and will be referred to as Ref. A, B, or C below:

      Reference A – 9/12/17 SCVWD Board Meeting Agenda:
      https://scvwd.legistar. com/View.ashx?M=AO&ID=52139& GUID=63b09c7d-01d4-4c84-9e93- 3b74ba056b85&N= QWdlbmRhIFBhY2tldCAoMjYxIFBhZ2 VzKQ%3d%3d

      Reference B – SCVWD 2010 UWMP:

      Click to access FINAL%20SCVWD%202010%20UWMP.pdf

      Reference C – SCVWD 2015 UWMP:

      WRATES believes we found several sources where the costs of alternatives and actual costs to ratepayers,are misleading. A baseline (no participation) scenario is not described, making it hard to clarify relative costs and other advantages and disadvantages of each other scenario compared to the baseline. Also the 3 participation scenarios presented appear to assume that parts of the comparative water supply options are going to be incorporated with no obvious costs shown. Finally, there is no scenario that considers a reduction in demand which maintaining an existing portion of the drought conservation can provide. We believe this can be done at a fraction of the cost that WaterFix will require. And apparently WaterFix will only periodically need to provide this increased supply to meet demand.

      Detailed Analysis:

      On page 34 of Ref. A, it shows that two of the cheapest water supply options would cost $300 per acre ft for the “No Regrets” (stormwater, gray water, more conservation) versus $600 per acre ft. for California WaterFix. Yet on page 53 of Ref. A, unlike similar assumptions on page 19, another assumption requiring implementation of “No Regrets”actions was added. This now clearly states that additional work described in the “No Regrets” option was required before Waterfix could succeed, yet we could find no costs addressed to accomplish this addition. Likewise it is uncertain if the assumption also includes the “more conservation” component which is WRATES entire proposed alternative.

      Looking at pages 20 and 40 of Ref. A, it states that the higher SWP (participation scenario 3) option shown on page 18 could obtain a modeled long – term annual average of 44,300 AF. That apparently means the staff is telling the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board that it would cost them $300/ acre ft x 44,300 acre ft annually = $13,290,000 annually for “No Regrets” versus $600/ acre ft x 44,300 acre ft = $26,580,000 annually for WaterFix on the average. As stated above, it is assumed that at least some of the $13,290,000 will also have to be paid to make the WaterFix option succeed. Additionally, page 20 adds the term (2025). This was not explained and is confusing since if it apparently applies to the year 2025. That date is prior to the midpoint of the planned construction period.

      On page 41 of Ref. A, the costs in 2017 dollars of the District share of capital cost for this participation scenario is $650 million. They state on page 26 and 42 that the average household in the North County would pay an additional  increase of $6.60 per month ($79.20 per year). Assuming it is accurate, it is misleading.

      On page 66 of Ref. A, you first get an idea of the magnitude of the increase and duration consumers are agreeing to if the Board approves participation in WaterFix. I’ve chosen to ignore the financing options as they are so uncertain that the 36% contingency applied to the basic construction costs become basically a guess at how this uncertainty will be resolved. Page 43 lists significant uncertainties. On the page 66 graph, payments covering the planned issuance of bonds must be funded by the water customers as they are issued to cover construction costs. There is a cumulative repayment that increases each year from start of construction from about FY19 through completion of construction presently estimated at 16 years later. What is misleading is that the average monthly household cost of $6.60 is calculated for 2027, about the middle point of construction (page 42). It appears that the actual charge to consumers will be between $6.60 and about $11.50 for the next 27 years, then descend to about $2.70 by 2059. It shows payments for just operations and maintenance from that point. It is not clarified if operation and maintenance costs are shown immediately after 2035 since the tunnels are now assumed to be operational. We believe all of the costs on this page are in 2017 dollars.

      Presently, all of the scenarios presented assume that the Board buys in to WaterFix and that only the extent is in question (Participation Scenarios 1, 2, 3). To get the information you need to make the best decision, you need to start with scenario 0, the status quo, with no change to supply or demand achieved by signing on to WaterFix. WRATES also requests that you also include an option 4. This option considers balancing possible water supply reduction after 2035 by reducing expected demand through maintaining a portion of actual drought conservation actions. All options need to then state clear objectives and to include measurable (wherever possible) advantages and disadvantages associated with them.

      What’s the Alternative?

      Conservation Alternative:

      WRATES’ plan (scenario 4) is to retain as much actual drought conservation demand reduction as the WaterFix is assumed to increase supply. Our plan is based on a comparison to the staff’s Scenario 3, the participation scenario including the higher SWP (5.0% SWP, 2.5% CVP), although scenario 1 or 2 may prove to be more cost effective or practical when compared properly.

      Here are the facts from the 9/12/17 presentations to the Board (Ref. A), and from the SCVWD Urban Water Management Plans (UWMP) for 2010 (Ref. B), and 2015 (Ref. C). In the presentation (Ref. A), conservation is mentioned on page 53. That page includes a water supply assumption that states: “Conservation savings continue on track to 99,000 acre-feet by 2040”. Incidentally, the next assumption is: “Implementation of ‘No Regrets’ actions”, which was described above and on page 34 of Ref. A. The only difference is that Page 34, the $300 per acre foot option also includes “more conservation”. This seems to imply that for WaterFix to achieve its results, costing $600 per acre ft. the Board must also assure that all these listed water supply increases are provided at a cost of some unstated portion of the $300 per acre ft supply option. The cost of all these actions plus the cost of “more conservation” based on these documents should be $13,290,000 annually as I calculated above. I’ll return to this item soon.

      First, the 99,000 acre ft of planned recurring conservation is described in the 2010 UWMP (Ref. B) in Chapter 4. Pages 45 and 50 provide some background on the planned 98,500  AFY conservation demand reduction. Table 5-1 on page 54 shows goals every 5 years , achieving the 98,500 goal in 2030, not by 2040 as the assumptions required. Based on the information available in the 2015 UWMP (Ref. C) in Chapter 9 on Demand Measurement Measures, it shows that the actual performance in 2015 was 900 acre ft better that the 5 year earlier estimate. The new trend shown in Table 9-1 (page 52) would meet the new 98,800 goal at least a year earlier (2029). No further conservation was shown for the next 6 years, although if this trend were followed, a minimum of 25% of the WaterFix increased water availability should be covered by ongoing reduced demand due to this program extension. As we described above we will not have to consider this savings to achieve the goal of the WRATES alternative. It remains an unused contingency reducing the risk of this action.

      Now, back to the “more conservation” issue, clearly a misnomer. In reality, to fully offset the gain in supply all that has to be done is to retain half of the actual conservation accomplished in 2015 …. and accomplish that by the year 2035, when Waterfix is scheduled to be operational. Accomplishing that earlier will provide excess water availability to help reduce the impact on the Delta environmental problems in the meantime.

      Here’s the data. In the 2010 UWMP the County Retailer Demand Projections in acre ft (after conservation savings) for 2015 were estimated at 375,720 acre ft (Ref. B, Table 4-1, page 49). Actual demand for the period was 285,000 acre ft as shown in the 2015 UWMP (Ref. C, in Figure 3-5 on page 15). This is a reduction of 90,720 annual acre ft, slightly more than double the supply increase accruing to the County if you pay the WaterFix higher SWP participation scenario cost of $650,000,000. Furthermore, by 2025, you project that essentially all of the drought conservation savings by customers will be gone according to Ref. C (Figure 4-5, page 20. We believe the Board can spend far less than that amount to maintain HALF the existing conservation levels. The statement “The near term future demand projection does not include the likelihood of a slower rebound in use as the drought subsides since the rate of rebound cannot be accurately predicted” on that page is thoroughly unsubstantiated. We will provide facts below substantiating a slower and less sharp rebound even without SCVWD involvement.

      Supporting References:

      These are some facts supporting the feasibility of maintaining half of the achieved conservation amount in 2015. Much of our information is obtained from our in depth research into SJWC and the other two San Jose water retailers that contributed 52.5% of SCVWD demand in 2010 (Ref. B), so most information should be representative of full District potential.

      San Jose Water Company’s drought conservation plan was based on reducing irrigation of an average single family residential connection by 66% – larger lots by more (calculations available upon request). This level could not be achieved by simple behavioral changes. Most of the changes were structural and will not change in the future. Example: I spent over $16,000 on improvements including artificial turf to replace my lawn, improved sprinkling, replacing high water demand plants with native low demand types, and improving my irrigation controllers. After qualifying for about $300 in SCVWD rebates, my investment simple payback period, because of rising rates has now exceeded 159 years, but none of my changes will go away contrary to what your projections for future demand conclude.

      Projections for your rebound from conservation savings between 2015 and 2020 (Ref. 3, fig. 4-5) are highly inaccurate based on actual trends through mid 2017. According to SJWD, monthly conservation data, and actual ongoing usage reductions in their last two Annual Reports, conservation actually increased about 1% between 2015 and 2016 and only started to decrease slightly in May and June of 2017. This is far less of a rebound than the roughly 6% your fig. 4-5 shows should have occurred by September 2017, with no indication that this lower trend will change dramatically in the future

      County population growth estimates may be overestimated. Projections changed from Ref. B in 2010 ( page 11) until Ref. C in 2015 (page 15) as follows:

      2015 2035 2040
      2010 est. 1,945,300 2,431,400 n/a
      2015 est. 1,877,700 2,303,500 2,423,500

      Based on this trend, the need for WaterFix water supply enhancements may be lower than anticipated.

      Each water retailer had to achieve a 20% reduction in demand by 2020 according to the Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SB X7-7). Here are the targets and actual performance of each of the San Jose retail water suppliers

      2015 target (gpcd) 2015 actual (gpcd) 2020 target (gpcd)
      SJWC 140 96 127
      SJMWS 163 126 145
      Great Oaks 108.574 80 98

      Due to mandatory conservation starting in 2015, all San Jose retailers have met their goal for 2020 already by conservation achieved in 2015. But how realistic is that goal for maintaining half of this amount of conservation savings by 2035?
      For that answer we have to look outside the U.S., at a country that experienced a 10 year drought, with the same climate as California and with similar populations concentrated in two major urban centers, Australia. IN 2016, the New York Times attempted to get an answer. Please see:

      Australia as a country reduced it’s use to 56 gpcd. Melbourne made an effort to use behavioral change to improve as explained in this article and achieved 39 gpcd in a metropolitan area similar to Santa Clara County but with a population of 4 million. Water usage has crept up since then… to 44 gpcd, but their approach should be able to easily hold our usage to roughly the 100 gpcd needed to compare to WaterFix at far less cost (needs confirmation). This keeps a funding path available to save many of the seismic stability, erosion, saltwater intrusion, and other environmental issues where WaterFix proposed corrections were questionable at best.


    2. The negatives of this project are that although the twin tunnel boast potentially additional capacity, but they don’t create any new water. We’ve experienced a drought for many years, the tunnels would deliver no more water than the current system. In addition, by passing the Delta, will result in increased salt water intrusion and will irreparably harm the salmon run. The California Delta hosts one of the largest salmon runs on the West Coast and provides a great del of revenue from both recreational fishing as well as the commercial salmon industry. Once this is gone, it is gone and we won’t get a second chance.

      Desalinization plants combined with levee repairs will provide California with a longer lasting solution that actually provides additional fresh water for drinking and agriculture. Please don’t fall for the boondoggle being presented by California WaterFix.


  2. The Water Fix project’s estimated cost of $17B is totally misleading. No project of this size has EVER met the initial cost estimate and this one could well be low by a factor of 300%. For reference review the final cost of the recent “re-do” of the SF Bay Bridge section between Yerba Buena Island and Oakland. It ended more than 400% over initial estimate. And, you know, it was just a bridge.


  3. Marc, All, please go to for more facts and competent information.
    This is a disaster on many fronts.
    Dave is 100% correct on the “budget” numbers, similar to the crazy train.
    They already have been caught illegally spending (our tax) money through a Federal audit.
    Wonder if anyone will get fired? Or go to jail?
    This is just another hoax on taxpayers and another payback for Uncle Jerry to all his campaign contributors.


  4. Conservation is the first choice. I followed Boston’s Big Dig with great interest; it went way over budget – “Numerous obstacles and uncertainties during planning and implementation resulted in the project cost growing from US$2.8 billion to US$14.78 billion” (Greiman, V. & Warburton, R. D. H. (2009). Deconstructing the Big Dig: best practices for mega-project cost estimating). California high speed rail is, to say the least, not on track, facing similar challenges as the Big Dig. Let’s not repeat history. The tunnels – double or single – are misguided. As a Santa Clara resident, I DO NOT WANT TO PAY FOR THEM.


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