Typically, water utilities’ budgets are funded by revenue collected through water and sewer rates. Revenue generated by rates covers the costs of operations, as well as ongoing upgrades and repairs to pipelines, treatment plants, sewers and other water infrastructure.
State legislation also has affected the water rate-setting process by requiring new processes for altering water rates, as well as by requiring water conservation, which in turn decreases the demand for water.
Tracking how much Americans spend on infrastructure starts with defining the sector. In this case, we mean the essential services related to public works: water and sewer, electricity and gas, transportation, telephone, and broadband.
The day of reckoning is drawing near for Huntington Beach’s long-planned desalination plant, which would help quench Orange County’s thirst with sea water and free up imported water for the rest of the Southern California. Twenty years and $50 million into the process, officials with plant purveyor Poseidon are optimistic they will get their final two permits — possibly by year’s end.
Water bills in San Francisco are set to rise steadily over the next four years, after the approval of a rate schedule by the city’s Public Utilities Commission. … In addition to funding the commission’s regular operations, the rate increases will pay for a series of ambitious infrastructure upgrades to the city’s sewer system and vast Hetch Hetchy network that sends drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents.
The Tahoe-Truckee area’s water agencies say they oppose a budget trailer bill that is part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2018-19 budget. The bill, according to the Association of California Water Agencies, is essentially a modified form of State Bill 623, dubbed the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fee.”
When the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted to finance the lion’s share of the delta tunnels project, some on the board called it a bold stroke of leadership. The delegations from Los Angeles and San Diego, however, called the move alarming, financially risky and irresponsible.
As part of his final budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown wants new fees on water to provide clean and affordable drinking water to the approximately 1 million Californians who are exposed to contaminated water in their homes and communities each year. … About 100 state residents who lack access to clean drinking water will head to the Capitol today and join with several lawmakers to support Brown’s proposal …
Max Gomberg, the State Water Resources Control Board’s climate and conservation manager, says the price of water has increased at six times the rate of inflation across the state. Gomberg’s agency is currently drafting a set of recommendations that will help the state legislature develop a financial assistance program for residents with soaring water rates.
Hundreds of frustrated and angry residents turned out Thursday night for a city-held public forum at Mira Mesa Senior Center to address surging water bills — a long-simmering controversy that has now reached a boiling point.
Citing the need for more deliberation, California regulators delayed publication of a report that will outline their preferred plan to fund and manage a statewide program to help poor residents pay their water bills. As water rates increase in the United States, governments and utilities are exploring new forms of financial aid.
America is facing a water infrastructure crisis. … Investing more in the country’s water infrastructure would help—which the Trump administration and other federal leaders appear to be considering in 2018—but simply throwing more money at these problems does not necessarily address another enormous challenge facing utilities and the communities they serve: water affordability.
All utilities, to varying degrees, shut off water service to households who do not pay bills. Shutoffs, utilities argue, are an essential tool for maintaining financial health. They are the leverage that ensures payment. The universe of U.S. water utilities is vast and varied. There are more than 50,000 systems that serve 15 or more people year-round.
Utilities from California to Florida are seeing their expenses drop dramatically with the GOP tax overhaul, which could save these regulated electric, gas and water utilities billions of dollars each year. … California is home to numerous investor-owned utilities, ranging from Pacific Gas & Electric to private water companies.
The California Public Utilities Commission has amended its long-standing mission statement, leaving out the idea of ensuring “reasonable rates” for the water and power used by the public. … Spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the change has not affected the commission’s dedication to making sure water and power costs are affordable for California consumers.
A Native American tribe in Northern California was appalled last month when Shasta County demanded an extra $1,000 in penalties for their water bill. Thirty members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, ranging in age from 1 to 70 years old, live in a cluster of trailers on 42 acres of land that is zoned for a single household.
The California Supreme Court effectively brought to end this week a longstanding, bitter fight between water managers in Los Angeles and San Diego — a ruling that means the loss of billions in potential savings for local ratepayers.
The San Diego County Water Authority has lost a major legal battle to reduce the price of San Diego’s water. For years, San Diego water officials argued the region’s major supplier of water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, charges too much to deliver water to San Diego from the Colorado River.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of households earning less than $US 15,000 per year grew more between 2000 and 2015 than any equivalent segment of the income distribution. At the same time water rates, driven by the cost to maintain or replace water treatment plants and delivery pipes, are rising at double or triple the rate of inflation.
As California water agencies prepare to vote next month on paying for the tunnels, which are supposed to improve water deliveries to the southern half of the state, the stark difference between urban and rural water users’ expected costs illustrates one of the project’s main stumbling blocks.
More than 6 million Southern Californian households could pay $3 more a month to help cover the costs of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial plan to bore two huge tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
An effort by California officials to carry their success with water conservation beyond the drought is not sitting well with local water managers, many of whom are eager to shake off state control. … The proposal was met with howls of protest from many local water agency leaders, who say budget-based water rates are too costly and complicated to adopt. Some also object to state meddling in water rates, historically the sole province of local water utilities.
During drought, people conserve water. That’s a good thing for public water agencies and the state as a whole but the reduction in use ultimately means less money flowing into the budgets of those very agencies that need funds to treat water to drinkable standards, maintain a distribution system, and build a more drought-proof supply.
“There are two things that can’t happen to a water utility – you can’t run out of money and you can’t run out of water,” said Tom Esqueda, public utilities director for the city of Fresno. He was a panelist at a June 16 discussion in Sacramento about drought resiliency sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
The East Bay Municipal Utility District is spending $120,000 to resend all of its 385,000 account holders a notice of a proposed 19 percent rate increase after discovering the first mailing omitted 15,000 to 20,000 customers. … Under the state’s voter-approved Proposition 218, public agencies must mail out a notice of rate increases 45 days before adopting them.
Belying their reputation as conservative institutions that resist change, large U.S. water utilities, in response to slow-motion social and hydrological shifts that alter water availability and use, are showing signs of creativity. The inspiration is reflected in their rates, which continue a relentless, but slowing, upward climb. … The challenge for utilities today is threefold: earn enough revenue to repair broken pipes, keep water affordable for the poor, and do so while selling less of their product.
The California Courts of Appeal has 90 days to decide the fate of a water rate dispute between a Los Angeles-based water wholesaler and San Diego County water managers. At issue is the cost of moving water through the Metropolitan Water District’s delivery system.
In his 100-day action plan to “Make America Great Again,” President Trump proposed privatization as the best strategy for fixing the country’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges and water systems. That’s already happened in Lake County’s Lucerne and other small towns like it throughout California — and it’s not working out very well for people like the Cruz family.
Last week, a judge ruled against the city of Glendale for violating Proposition 218 in creating its current water rate-pricing structure first adopted in 2014, in a lawsuit brought by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government.
The Desert Water Agency Board of Directors unanimously approved a significant rate hike Thursday, the first in a series of five increases that — if all are eventually approved — could result in an almost 80 percent increase to customers’ bills over the next four years if all are passed.
In a case that could have statewide ramifications, a group of multimillionaire Hillsborough residents, including an early funder of Microsoft, has sued the town claiming that its drought rules and penalties intended to keep people from over-watering big lawns are illegal.
After examining water use data and water agencies’ urban water plans, [Heather] Cooley and her colleagues found that while water use stayed stagnant or declined in some areas, many utilities were projecting increased water use in the future, which shows they’re not allowing for efficiency improvements and so they could be overestimating demand, which could increase costs for rate payers for water they may not use.
An acrimonious fight over a water-rate increase in Orange County will culminate Tuesday when voters decide whether to recall two of their local water district’s board members and whether to reelect a third.
Prompted by a 2015 state law, the State Water Resources Control Board has begun designing a program to provide state aid to individuals and families who need help paying their water bills. Due to the Legislature by February 1, 2018, California is determined to be the first to use state funds to subsidize water service for poor residents, water rate experts say.
It wasn’t just generous spring rains filling north-state reservoirs that had California’s urban water districts pushing back so hard against mandatory water cuts this year. All those brown lawns and shorter showers have cost them millions in customer revenue.
The latest skirmish in the water wars asks the cryptic question: When is water not really water? The answer, it seems, is when words in an 83-year-old law – a law conceived long before the notion that recycled sewage was anything but disgusting – essentially negate its existence.
Residents of El Porvenir, threatened with water shutoff in August as their neighbors in Cantua Creek were last year, are getting financial relief from the state. … In April, the farmworker residents of the tiny western Fresno County town rejected a higher water rate over five years that amounted to about $5 a month the first year.
How much money does the water district have, and how much does it really need? … Yorba Linda’s case is a high-stakes test of the power of Proposition 218, which gave Californians the power to repeal or reduce any local tax, assessment or fee.
This is the time of year when water utilities set their rates, which almost inevitably go up. But this year, the rate hikes are likely to be higher than usual, as water utilities cope with the unexpected impact of mandatory conservation on their budgets.
In a move that even Clovis city officials agree is unlikely to bolster water conservation efforts, the city is changing its water rate structure so that residents using less will pay more. New rates will go into effect July 1 if the City Council approves them Monday night.
The cost of drinking water and sewer services in the United States, rising on average at twice the rate of inflation, is giving birth to a new civil rights movement, one based on access to water and sanitation for the poor.
Citing potentially higher costs that would be passed on to customers, Orange County’s largest provider of water to homes and businesses is intensifying its opposition to a key supplier’s plan to buy desalinated water from a proposed $1 billion Huntington Beach plant.
More than five years after the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District was barred from collecting a user fee on California American Water bills to pay for Carmel River mitigation and other work, the California State Supreme Court ruled the state Public Utilities Commission had no authority over the fee.
The board that oversees the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Tuesday approved the utility’s plan to increase water rates about 4.7% each year over the next five years. … Utility officials have said they need the approximately $330 million in additional revenue to repair aging water pipes and other infrastructure.
A coalition of groups representing cities, counties and water agencies filed a proposed ballot measure Monday that would allow water providers to reestablish so-called tiered pricing as a means of encouraging conservation.
In Great Oaks Water Company v. Santa Clara Valley Water District, originally issued March 26, the Sixth District Court of Appeal found that the water district’s groundwater pumping fees are property-related fees subject to Proposition 218. … The Great Oaks opinion, however, reached a different conclusion than the Second District Court of Appeal reached in City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District, issued March 17.
Four years into the worst drought in California’s recorded history, the contrast between the strict enforcement on Californians struggling to conserve and the unchecked profligacy in places like Bel Air has unleashed anger and indignation — among both the recipients of the fines, who feel helpless to avoid them, and other Californians who see the biggest water hogs getting off scot-free.
The drought is driving up water rates all over California as utilities scramble to cover revenue losses and pay for additional supplies. There will be no relief for low-income residents, who are caught in a legal conundrum that prevents most water agencies from discounting their rates.
Eighteen months ago, Marcie Edwards became the first woman to lead the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the country’s largest publicly-owned utility, and it wouldn’t have happened without a stint as a “pit critter.”
The Marin Municipal Water District has set a public hearing as it looks to raise rates to deal with reduced water consumption, the drought and land management responsibilities. It is also looking at establishing a “drought surcharge” option.
At a nearly four-hour public hearing attended by more than 150 customers at the [Helix Water] district’s University Avenue headquarters, the board approved charging more to its nearly 270,000 customers through 2019-20.
We interviewed Ken Baerenklau, a UC Riverside economist and adjunct fellow with the PPIC Water Policy Center, on the role of pricing to mitigate scarcity during droughts, and the need for fair and economically sensible prices.
Water agencies save some costs when they deliver less water; for example, they need fewer chemicals to treat water and need to buy less water itself. But the majority of other costs are fixed, including running treatment plants, paying off infrastructure and paying workers’ salaries.
It was hailed as a modern makeover of an aging, inefficient way to bill customers. Instead, the new system at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power became a nightmare, spewing out thousands of faulty bills, some wildly inflated.
In a setback to California water regulators’ conservation efforts, the state Supreme Court has kept intact a ruling that makes it harder for municipalities to impose tiered pricing to discourage heavy water use.
Rejecting the pleas of California officials worried about water conservation, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday left intact a lower court ruling that makes it tougher for cities and water districts to impose punishing higher rates on water wasters.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow found that the MWD had charged San Diego too much for the use of its aqueduct to bring water from the Colorado River under San Diego’s deal to buy water from the Imperial Irrigation District.
Since it was created more than 100 years ago, the Department of Water and Power has been a titan of Los Angeles, controlling not just the city’s access to vital resources but billions of dollars in revenue that has helped gain influence at City Hall.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials are seeking an increase in rates over the next five years in a bid to boost water conservation amid California’s drought and expand repairs of crumbling water mains and electricity infrastructure.
California Gov. Jerry Brown called for an overhaul in water pricing as part of his sweeping drought order, and regulators on Wednesday will discuss how to best do that in light of legal questions over rates designed to encourage conservation.
It was not the sort of tremor that Californians prepare for with flashlights, evacuation plans, and Hollywood scripts. But a state appeals court ruling on April 20 hit the state’s water utilities with earth-shaking force.
The California attorney general’s office has asked the state Supreme Court to depublish a controversial ruling that it argues will impede the state’s ability to encourage conservation by charging people higher rates when they use excessive amounts of water.
As East Bay water officials on Tuesday were about to increase rates and impose the toughest penalties yet against water wasters, Raven Brown had one concern. She’s held off from bathing her dog, which has fleas, for fear her water bill would go up and she might be fined.
East Bay residents will see an average 24 percent hike in their water bills, starting next month, after the East Bay Municipal Utility District on Tuesday approved a bump in rates, largely to make up for revenue lost during the drought.
The homeowner and securities specialist paid huge water bills under the steep tiers recently declared illegal by the 4th District Court of Appeal, and he recently filed a claim in Orange County Superior Court to try to recoup the thousands he once thought were gone for good.
Facing a lawsuit from cities over its pumping rates, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California called in the big guns. … Two weeks ago, the WRD settled the case, agreeing to pay the cities that sued it $9.1 million.
It started with a few ticked-off residents of the Orange County town of San Juan Capistrano. The city was charging them too much for water, they argued, in violation of the California Constitution, courtesy of Proposition 218, a taxpayer-revolt law passed in 1996.
The court held that since Proposition 218 prohibits charging more for a service than it costs to provide, the policy of charging higher rates to users of more water was unconstitutional. … But a careful reading offers an opening to continue conservation incentives if agencies carefully justify them.
Gov. Jerry Brown is sticking to his statewide mandatory water conservation targets, his administration said Tuesday, even as a new appeals court ruling limits the ability of cities and water districts to hit people with punishing rates to encourage them to save water.
In a ruling that Gov. Jerry Brown says puts a “straitjacket” on local governments trying to fight the severe statewide drought, an appeals court has found that an Orange County city’s tiered water rates are unconstitutional. … It comes shortly after Brown issued drought orders that call for rates that encourage people to save water, including tiered pricing.
An appellate court Monday struck down a Southern California city’s method of charging water users based on a tiered-rate system, a potential setback to municipalities across a parched state laboring to curtail water consumption under Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent order.
Water departments across California, including dozens in the Bay Area, are now looking to raise rates — in many cases by double digits — to shore up revenues as customers use less water during dry times and water sales plummet.
One Holds that the Fee is Subject to Prop. 26 and Another that it is a Property-Related Fee Subject to Prop. 218 — Two California Appellate Court decisions handed down this month address whether or not a local water agency’s groundwater pumping charges are property-related fees, and reach different conclusions. The distinction is important because of the restrictions imposed for property-related fees under Proposition 218 — as well as the exemptions for fees that are considered taxes under Proposition 26.
A state audit released last week details how Los Angeles Department of Water and Power managers ignored and downplayed repeated warnings that a new customer billing system — the lifeline of the utility and how it collects its revenue — was not ready and would not work as promised.
Is your house built to use water efficiently? … The non-profit organization known as RESNET – the Residential Energy Services Network – has just announced its intention to create an easy to understand numeric rating system for the water efficiency of homes this year. RESNET has already developed the highly successful Home Energy Rating System (HERS) for assigning a score to the energy efficiency of homes …
Facing a public outcry and some skepticism from their board of directors, the top staff of the Silicon Valley’s largest drinking water provider on Tuesday suggested reducing a proposed drought-related water rate hike this year from 31 percent to 19 percent.
Residents of this tiny western Fresno County town recently told Fresno County supervisors that they don’t want to pay higher bills for water service to their tiny community — even if it means having their water shut off. If they don’t agree to pay more, Cantua Creek residents will stop getting water as early as mid-May.
During the first three years of drought, Bay Area residents have endured brown lawns, shorter showers and dirty cars. Now, as the crisis stretches into the fourth year, they are about to feel it in their wallets.
The typical Los Angeles Department of Water and Power residential customer will see a $2.61 monthly billing increase by July, as this winter’s low snow-pack means the agency has to buy more expensive imported water.
A Southern California city has launched eminent domain proceedings to take over the private water agency that has served the community for more than 80 years – an unusual move, even in California, where fights over water are common.
The Fresno City Council approved Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s historic water project Thursday night, assuring a secure supply of the liquid gold well into the 21st century. The 6-1 vote was actually for a five-year rate plan.
The Department of Motor Vehicles may be the state agency that Californians love to hate – undeservedly, for the most part. However, for sheer cussedness and arrogance, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is in a class by itself.
Last week, an 89-year-old pipe burst in the Hollywood Hills, releasing at least 100,000 gallons of water that flooded the streets, cracked sidewalks and submerged cars. … Also last week, city officials were scrambling to save an agreement between the city and the politically powerful leader of the DWP employee union.
A long-awaited examination of how two controversial Los Angeles Department of Water and Power nonprofit trusts spent millions of ratepayer dollars stalled over a concern that auditors were taking too many notes, according to City Hall sources.
An audit heralded last year by L.A. city leaders as a breakthrough in efforts to determine what two controversial Department of Water and Power nonprofit trusts did with tens of millions of ratepayer dollars has ground to a halt, The Times has learned.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin has on tap a $1 million program to help low-income Fresnans pay their water bills. Whether that is enough to turn her proposed upgrade to Fresno’s water system into reality figures to be City Hall’s hottest political question this month.
A proposal to change water rates for farmers would have some paying more money and some less, but would not bring more revenue to the Modesto Irrigation District or affect the massive subsidy borne by its electricity customers.
Several agricultural water suppliers seeking reimbursement for state-mandated activities under the Water Conservation Act of 2009 are ineligible to receive state funding, the Commission on State Mandates has decided. The decision, released in early December, states that the suppliers are ineligible because they have the option to recover costs through the Proposition 218 process.
Thanks to December’s downpour, 1.3 million East Bay residents expecting to see a 14 percent hike in their water bill this month are getting a break — for now. The East Bay Municipal Utility District has postponed its emergency plan to pump Sacramento River water to local reservoirs as insurance against a prolonged drought.
Electricity customers of the Turlock Irrigation District will get a rate increase averaging 2 percent as of Jan. 1, following a 5-0 vote by its board Tuesday morning. … TID also has proposed a far larger increase – more than double – in farm water rates.
Despite early December rains, the East Bay Municipal Utility District board voted unanimously Tuesday to augment its Sierra reservoirs with water purchases from the Central Valley Water Project and to pass on the cost to customers, if need be.
As the city [Claremont] begins its effort to acquire a water system from Golden State Water Company one question looms: at what cost? … On Nov. 4, voters overwhelmingly backed a bond measure that allows the city to borrow up to $135 million to acquire the system, which serves more than 11,000 customers.
Poor management and an unprepared work force hampered the rollout of a new billing system by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, a new report says, resulting in thousands of incorrect billings and customer telephone hold times of up to two hours.
After more than a year of bitter legal battles, Los Angeles city leaders have approved a deal with the powerful Department of Water and Power union that promises the first detailed, public look at how two controversial nonprofits affiliated with the utility spent tens of millions of ratepayer dollars.
Investors looking for promising growth markets would do well to consider their water bill. “While the water sector offers many opportunities to innovate and deploy new technologies, in practice the sector has barely tapped the potential those technologies offer,” conclude the authors of a new Stanford-led report, “The Path to Water Innovation,” which recommends spurring innovation by revising pricing policies, regulatory frameworks and financing.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Measure W passed with a commanding lead of 6,116 votes in favor and 2,452 votes opposed to the initiative which taxpayers hope will reduce water rates. Residents headed to the polls to decide the fate of the highly contentious Measure W, which would allow Claremont to borrow up to $135 million in revenue bonds to finance the acquisition of the local water system owned and operated by Golden State Water Co.
A month of water debate has delivered an unsurprising message to Fresno City Hall — given their druthers, people prefer stuff to be free. But the 150 people who gathered at Gaston Middle School in southwest Fresno on Monday for the third of four water forums got an equally unsurprising reply: Water is the stuff of life, and it’s going to cost you.
The signs appear about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, tacked onto old farm wagons parked along quiet two-lane roads and bustling Interstate 5. “Congress Created Dust Bowl.” “Stop the Politicians’ Water Crisis.” “No Water No Jobs.”
Drought is rampant these days in many parts of the American West, so consider this a pretty sweet gift: You’ve just been given the rights to some water. … Your job is to turn around and use that resource in the most valuable way possible.
In an attempt to reduce water use during California’s severe drought, Sonoma’s City Council will consider raising water rates next month and imposing a new tiered-pricing system that puts the financial squeeze on the city’s heaviest water users.
This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.
One of the most extreme droughts in California’s history has been hitting agriculture hard, forcing cutbacks in water deliveries in parts of the Central Valley and leaving more than 400,000 acres of farmland fallow and dry.
If the severe drought gripping California continues much longer, there’s a good chance that many of the Golden State’s residences will be assigned a daily allocation of water and then charged extra for exceeding that amount.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for it and how much they might have to pay in the future.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the changed nature of the California Water Plan, some aspects of the 2009 update (including the recommendation for a water finance plan) and the reaction by certain stakeholders.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the challenges facing small water systems, including drought preparedness, limited operating expenses and the hurdles of complying with costlier regulations. Much of the article is based on presentations at the November 2007 Small Systems Conference sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and the California Department of Water Resources.
This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick.
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.
It’s no secret that providing water in a state with the size and climate of California costs money. The gamut of water-related infrastructure – from reservoirs like Lake Oroville to the pumps and pipes that deliver water to homes, businesses and farms – incurs initial and ongoing expenses. Throw in a new spate of possible mega-projects, such as those designed to rescue the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the dollar amount grows exponentially to billion-dollar amounts that rival the entire gross national product of a small country.