New Study Examines Economic Impacts of Disruption to East Bay Water Supplies


MORAGA, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2007) - Failure of a major levee in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta could cause major disruptions to the supply of water to the East Bay as well as to the Central Valley and Los Angeles, according to a new study by the Center for the Regional Economy at Saint Mary's College of California.

The report-the first to be released by the new interdisciplinary research center-was commissioned by the Contra Costa Council Water Task Force and funded by the Contra Costa Economic Partnership. Its purpose was to survey the East Bay's water supply and consumption patterns and to assess the economic impacts of possible disruptions on the East Bay business community.

"The disruptions could be sudden due to levee failure, natural disaster or hostile acts," the report concludes. "Alternatively, it could be due to chronic lack of water resulting from drought or inadequate infrastructure investment."

The report emphasizes that the Delta is a vital feature of California"s water distribution system and will become an even greater source of water to the Contra Costa Water District in particular over the next 25 years to accommodate the area's rapid growth. That finding comes amid rising public concern over the Delta's deteriorating levee system. Over two-thirds of the region's water either comes directly from the Delta or through pipes that cross the Delta.

Other findings of the report include:

* The margin between projected water supply and consumption is diminishing, requiring ongoing emphasis on conservation and development of alternative sources.
* Residential customers consume approximately two-thirds of the water in Alameda and Contra Costa counties and would be most affected by any supply disruption.
* Most business and industrial users have conservation plans in place, but those that rely on water as a component of their product-such as food processing firms-could be significantly affected by a reduction in supply.

The study was conducted by Richard Courtney, associate professor of economics; William Perkins, adjunct professor of earth sciences; William Halpin, adjunct professor of business administration, and Saint Mary's College student interns.

The Center for the Regional Economy acts as a clearinghouse and resource for information about the East Bay economy. It provides consulting and research on a wide range of economic, political, environmental and social issues in conjunction with regional business, governmental and nonprofit groups. For more information, please contact Director Kris Chase, the Transamerica Professor of Business Policy and Strategy, at (925) 631-4129, or go to


Saint Mary's College, founded in 1863, is a residential learning community in Moraga, California based in the Catholic, Lasallian and liberal arts traditions. The college currently enrolls more than 4,000 students in undergraduate, graduate and extended education programs. The Christian Brothers, an international Catholic teaching order, guides the academic growth and spiritual character of the school.

--Debra Holtz
Office of College Communications