Federally subsidized California farm water

I loved this boldly written line in Bettina Boxall’s Los Angeles Times story last Sunday on the question of who will pay, and how much, for a proposed multi-billion dollar pair of water supply tunnels beneath the Sacramento Delta:

Much of California agriculture is accustomed to vast amounts of cheap, federally subsidized water in the form of deliveries from the Central Valley Project, the nation’s largest water supply program.

No need for backup or detail, right? We all know that’s true. But should you be curious about the details, here’s some grist for the mill, via the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General earlier this year (pdf):

We found that USBR’s water ratesetting policies do not ensure that an appropriate share of capital costs and prior-year funding deficits are repaid annually. Water deliveries to the CVP contractors have been highly variable from year to year. When actual water deliveries are less than projected deliveries, revenues are insufficient to recover the Federal investment in the project. When actual water deliveries exceed projected deliveries, however, existing contract provisions stipulate that excess revenues collected by USBR must be refunded to the contractors. As a result, USBR has not demonstrated steady progress toward recovery of Federal investments in the CVP.