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The Independent Institute
Working Paper #75

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Political Economy of California Water Allocation


(The following is a chapter from the forthcoming book Aquanomics: Water Markets, Bureaucracy, and the Environment, edited by B. Delworth Gardner and Randy T. Simmons.)

This paper analyzes four proposed solutions to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta crisis. Delta policy must balance economic, political, engineering, legal, and ecological dimensions. The authors argue that identification of economically optimal solutions is problematic. It is therefore more important to identify politically feasible alternatives. The authors discuss the details of the Delta problem and construct an approach to evaluating political feasibility. They find that a dual-conveyance solution incorporating both pumping through the Delta and construction of a peripheral canal around the Delta emerges as the most politically feasible alternative. This result is consistent with plans to focus on dual-conveyance.


Leo K. Simon is Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, Berkeley.

Susan Stratton Sayre is Assistant Professor of Economics at Smith College.

Rachel E. Goodhue is Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, Berkeley.