NEWS: BizFed Tours Colorado River Aqueduct

Posted November 11th, 2012

Nearly two-dozen BizFed-member business leaders took part in a special behind-the-scenes Inspection Trip of the Colorado River Aqueduct & Hoover Dam Nov. 2-4. The educational trip was hosted by Metropolitan Water District Director David Fleming and MWD Chief Administrative Officer Gil Ivey.

The in-depth trip provided a unique opportunity to better understand the challenges of sustaining Southern California’s vast water supply system – which spans from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta in Northern California to the 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct.

About half of the water SoCal drinks is either from the Bay Delta or the Colorado River.

The trip was particularly enlightening in highlighting that while conservation efforts across the region are showing gains, our Colorado River water supply is facing critical challenges.

  • The Colorado River provides a significant annual supply of water for California and six other states.
  • But it is facing growing pressures – including a12-year drought that is putting increased strains from all states for greater allocations of the River’s limited water supply.
  • Meanwhile, the environmental and conveyance challenges facing Northern California’s Bay Delta – the other major source of SoCal’s water supply – make sustaining our supply of water from the Colorado River that much more critical.
  • It’s clear that the demands on the CRA are making it even more crucial that our state leaders move efficiently to ensure an environmentally and economically equitable solution to alleviate the strains on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta crisis.

The trip included:

An in-depth tour of Hoover Dam (an important source of MWD electrical power and a major source of flood control and irrigation in the Southwest)

A tour of Copper Basin Dam & Reservoir, with a reservoir capacity of 24,000 acre feet

A tour of Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant, the starting point of the Colorado River Aqueduct and the first of five pumping plants that convey River water to Southern California

About the Colorado River Aqueduct:

  • Spanning 1,440 miles, the Colorado River is the principal water resource in the arid Pacific Southwest.
  • The Colorado River Aqueduct was built during the Great Depression, when voters approved $200 billion in bonds.
  • It spans 242 miles from Lake Havasu to Lake Mathews near Riverside (and runs through 5 pumping plants along the way). Water takes about 72 hours to make the 242-mile journey.
  • The CRA can distribute more than 1 billion gallons of water per day, with an evaporation loss of 4-5% on the entire system. The distribution system includes 819 miles of pipeline and aqueduct, 9 reservoirs, 16 hydroelectric plants and has average daily delivery of 6,023 acre-feet of water
  • Water from the CRA is blended with water from Northern California and then distributed to parts of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as well as the San Gabriel Valley.

About the Bay Delta

  • Water traveling through the Delta is crucial for our region – supplying 30 percent of Southern California’s drinking water and irrigating about 45 percent of the fruits and vegetables produced in the United States.
  • Overall, the Delta supplies water to more than 22 million Californians, industry and agriculture and supports a $400B state economy.
  • The Delta is California’s most important estuary and a vital environmental resource, home to more than 500 plant, bird, animal and fish species.
  • The Delta is a 700-mile system of waterways, sloughs, canals, tracts and islands.
  • But an aging infrastructure of levees – and the growing risk of an earthquake (along nearby fault lines) that would destroy them – poses a very real threat to the reliability of this vital water system.
  • Meanwhile, demand for water is growing with California’s population – and environmentally sustainable ways need to be found to protect the area’s critical ecosystem.

Currently the Bay Delta Conservation Plan – including a plan for two tunnels to convey water from the North end of the Delta (instead of the current Southern end) is in the EIR process (estimated 2 years).

The tunnels are forecast the average household approx. $5 to $6 more per month on their water bills.

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