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Highlights

This report discusses the water marketing activities of the Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project and their associated costs. Water marketing costs have risen significantly since 1989, but GAO found no evidence that the costs were associated with activities other than normal operation and maintenance activities that are recoverable from water customers under applicable law. GAO reviewed the information provided to customers and found that the customers were unable to determine whether (1) budgeted activities were the ones that would actually be charged to them and (2) budgeted amounts for the coming year's activities represented increases in previous estimates.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Bureau of Reclamation 1. The Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region's Regional Director should ensure that the appropriate regional personnel provide additional budget information to customers at the beginning of the budget process that would enable them to determine whether the budgeted activities are ones that will actually be charged to them.
Closed - Implemented
BOR provided the Central Valley Project Water Association (CVPWA) with (1) a comparison of the allocation of fiscal year (FY) 2001 projected O&M costs, with an allocation of FY 2002 projected O&M costs by water rate component, (2) documents that show the increase/decrease in budgeted amounts for FYs 2001 & 2002, and (3) a copy of the 2001 irrigation water rates, which indicated that emphasis was given to significant changes from prior years' amounts and procedures and input received from water contractors and the CVPWA. In addition, BOR is developing automated reports that track budget estimates by ratesetting component by budget item on a year-to-year basis.
Bureau of Reclamation 2. The Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region's Regional Director should ensure that the appropriate regional personnel provide additional information during the subsequent ratesetting process to enable customers to determine whether the amounts estimated for budget activities represent changes in prior year estimates.
Closed - Implemented
In response to the audit recommendation, BOR modified the budget formulation process for the fiscal year 2004 budget to provide water users with (1) project priority, (2) the reimbursability of each budget line item, and (3) the prior year original budget estimate. This information will be presented prior to BOR providing water users with a detailed analysis of estimated costs to be used in the water rate development process so that water user comments are considered in finalizing water rates for the forthcoming water year. BOR plans to provide similar budget information to water users in future years.

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