$40 billion cost when levee system fails in California’s delta

Scientists estimate this would cost $40 billion dollars.

23 million Californians will have no drinking water.

Up to 1 million acres of some of the best, most productive farmland in the world will disappear forever as salt water permeates the soil.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers creates a delta system with a network of 700 miles of waterways, 1,100 miles of levees, 57 islands,  hundreds of thousands of acres of marshes, mudflats, and 1 million acres of farmland. The water is used to cool power plants and many other industries and businesses.  In addition, the Delta serves as a transportation corridor in which highways, pipelines, power lines, railroads and ships merge. These miles of levees, pipelines and roadways, lie just east of many active faults. Furthermore, continuous microbial oxidation, coupled with compaction of organic soils, causes subsidence of these levees.

The failure of the Delta levees is inevitable and can not be prevented

The levees will fail for many possible reasons:

  1. Earthquake
  2. Massive spring flooding.  This gets more and more likely as climate change melts Sierra snow early, which will also prevent California from producing 2 to 3 crops a year
  3. Prolonged rain
  4. Flooding of the central valley (especially another ARkStorm)
  5. Increasing pressure on levee walls as subsidence continues (some farmland is 30 feet below the seawater on the other side of the dam),
  6. Beavers, California ground squirrels, or muskrats tunneling into the levees (as well as pocket gophers and California voles)
  7. Internal erosion caused by embankment or foundation leakage or piping
  8. Improper maintenance including failure to remove trees, repair internal seepage problems, replace lost material from the cross section of the dam and abutments, or maintain gates, valves, and other operational components
  9. Improper design, including the use of improper construction materials and construction practices
  10. Improper operation, including the failure to remove or open gates or valves during high flow periods
  11. Failure of upstream dams on the same waterway that release water to a downstream dam.


Sebastian Vicuña et al. 2006. ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DELTA LEVEE FAILURE DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE: A SCENARIO ANALYSIS Prepared For the California Energy Commission at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dirk H. Van Vuren, et al. 22 Sep 2011. Habitat Associations of Burrowing Mammals along Levees in the Sacramento Valley.  Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology University of California Davis

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