Bureau of Reclamation:

Financial Information for Three California Water Programs

GAO-15-468R: Published: Jun 4, 2015. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 2015.

Additional Materials:


Anne-Marie L. Fennell
(202) 512-3841


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) data indicated that the agency expended over $1.9 billion on activities under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), Calfed Bay-Delta Authorization Act (Calfed Bay-Delta), and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (San Joaquin) for fiscal years 1993 through 2014. Reclamation received funding from a variety of sources to implement activities specified in the legal authorities—sections within each program’s authorizing legislation, or related requirements, that lay out activities to be carried out as part of the program.

  •  CVPIA program. According to Reclamation data, the agency expended over $1.5 billion on activities pursuant to a number of legal authorities under the CVPIA program for fiscal years 1993 through 2014. The legislation specifies a number of legal authorities that authorize activities to, among other things, approve water transfers from CVP contractors to other water users, restore aquatic habitat, improve facilities to reduce their environmental impacts, and provide water to fish and wildlife. For example, under one legal authority, measures are to be taken to construct, rehabilitate, or relocate fish screens, which are devices installed on water diversions to protect fish from injury or mortality that could otherwise result if they pass through the diversions.
  • Calfed Bay-Delta program. Reclamation data indicated that the agency expended over $287 million for a range of activities under the Calfed Bay-Delta program for fiscal years 2006 through 2014. A variety of legal authorities are specified under this program including, among others, activities related to ecosystem restoration, water use efficiency, science, and studies to assess the feasibility of increasing water storage at select locations. For example, under one legal authority, activities are to be undertaken to provide technical assistance for urban and agricultural water conservation projects. 
  • San Joaquin program. According to Reclamation data, the agency expended over $98 million to implement activities under the San Joaquin program for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. Under this program, legal authorities are targeted at restoring the San Joaquin River system and improving the management of water provided to water users in that area. For example, several legal authorities call for structural improvements to improve flows for restoration purposes.

Why GAO Did This Study

In California, the roughly 500-mile long Central Valley Project (CVP), one of the nation’s largest water projects, provides water for multiple uses, including irrigation; municipal supply; power generation; and fish and wildlife mitigation, protection, and restoration. Reclamation, which manages the CVP, must balance these competing interests for water, which is particularly important as California enters its fourth consecutive year of an extreme drought. A series of federal laws enacted from 1992 through 2009 have affected Reclamation’s management of the CVP—the CVPIA, Calfed Bay-Delta, and San Joaquin—and Reclamation is one of the primary federal agencies that manages the programs established to implement specific activities authorized under the relevant legislation and requirements. GAO was asked to examine Reclamation’s use of funding for the three programs. This report provides financial information for activities carried out under the CVPIA, Calfed Bay-Delta, and San Joaquin programs, including specific legal authorities under which Reclamation requested and expended funds since each program’s inception through fiscal year 2014.

To conduct this work, GAO reviewed the authorizing legislation, specific legal authorities, and other relevant legislation and legal and financial documentation related to the three programs. GAO collected and summarized Reclamation’s financial data and supporting documentation on requested, annually appropriated, total budgetary resources, obligated, and expended amounts for the CVPIA, Calfed Bay-Delta, and San Joaquin programs since each program began funding activities under their relevant authorizing legislation, corresponding to fiscal years 1993, 2006, and 2010, respectively. GAO also used annual appropriations and total budgetary resource data from the Office of Management and Budget’s MAX database. 

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact Anne-Marie Fennell at (202) 512-3841 or fennella@gao.gov.

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