Why Modernizing Infrastructure Will Benefit Our Future Water Supply


California's water supply portfolio puzzle graphic.

California's water supply portfolio puzzle.

The State Water Project moves life-sustaining water across the state for 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. It supplies families, businesses, crops, and industries with safe and affordable water.

Without modernization of our infrastructure, climate-driven weather extremes and seismic threats will affect how we can deliver this water, risking human health and safety, urban and agricultural economies, and the cost of water to communities.

The modernization work required includes physical infrastructure improvements to how we capture and move water during high flow weather events to store for later use during dry periods. Improving the way we move the water with a tunnel system, called the Delta Conveyance Project, will help protect against interruptions in water deliveries due to earthquakes and the effects of climate-driven weather extremes like rising sea levels and other unanticipated extreme weather.

“Isn’t there another way?” or, “Why can’t we just conserve more?” The Delta Conveyance Project is specifically geared toward protecting and preserving the long-term viability of State Water Project infrastructure.

While alternative supplies and conservation are extremely important for regional sustainability overall, they don’t directly address the functionality of the State Water Project. Alternatives that ignore State Water Project stability, or undermine its future, miss the mark.

Modernizing the State Water Project, by adding new water intakes and creating a new way to move the water, does two important things:

  • Adapts to climate-driven weather extremes by adding flexibility in how the water moves
  • Protects against supply disruptions caused by nearby earthquakes

Climate change models indicate that more precipitation will fall as rain in the winter months. The state expects to see more runoff and river flows in the winter than in past years. Infrastructure built to accommodate seasonal patterns of the past cannot accommodate the flashy winter flows that are becoming more common.

Local water agencies across the state are working hard to fortify their respective water supply portfolios, including the 18 State Water Contractors participating in the Delta Conveyance Project. This project neither precludes nor replaces those much-needed efforts.

Californians are no strangers to thinking big and taking on tough challenges, especially when it comes to protecting health and safety. There are many dozens of cities, small towns and retail water agencies across the state that rely in part on the State Water Project, and they are counting on this infrastructure modernization project to help ensure a stable water supply for their families, businesses, and communities into the future.

The Delta Conveyance Project will make the necessary modernizations to the State Water Project to promote sustained reliability. The Department of Water Resources will continue to pursue this and other projects that allow California to prosper and thrive. A future without a functioning State Water Project is one we can’t afford to accept.

*This article was updated to reflect the approval of the project in December 2023.