Delivery of Water to the Westlands Water District, California

B-199162: Published: Feb 18, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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GAO was asked several questions regarding the delivery of water by the Water and Power Resources Service to the Westlands Water District of California. While there have been negotiations for a revised repayment contract between Westlands and the Service, a revised contract has not been approved and is therefore not yet in effect. The Secretary of the Interior does not presently have the authority to provide a firm supply of water to Westlands notwithstanding the provisions in the current temporary service contract with the district. The act which authorized construction of the project required a contract for complete repayment between the United States and the water user organization. The act also mandated a task force to review the extent to which the project was in conformity with the act. The task force found that the project had been improperly classified. The existing repayment contract was inadequate to recover the costs, but water service was allowed to continue so long as the parties moved immediately to enter into a repayment contract which would cover all the costs incurred. The task force found that the service area was expanded without proper authorization. Congressional authorization is needed to include the additional acres in the federal service area. A firm water supply may not properly be afforded to those acres under the Westlands water service contract. As to the lands for which there is not a sufficient repayment contract and for the acreage outside the authorized service area, the Service may furnish water supplies under the authority of the Warren Act. However, under this act, the Service may provide only surplus water; it may not obligate itself to provide a firm water supply.

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