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Bad news for those California residents who like clean drinking water - a new five-year-survey released by the California Department of Water Resources says that half the levees in California do not meet modern standards. What's worse - if a levee were to break in the wrong place, at the wrong time, it could contaminate the drinking water supply to the Bay Area for months, if not years.
The bad news gets worse for California's levees. At least 60% of the levees that protect California's rural areas from flooding are at high risk of failure from seepage, boils, structural instability, erosion and even rodents.
That includes the levees that protect drinking water aqueducts for the Bay Area and Southern California.
The state's levee system isn't exactly a spring chicken. Most of the nearly 13,000 miles worth of levees were built in the 1800s to protect farmland in Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. That's a recipe for disaster according to Michael Mierzwa, the lead Central Valley Flood Management Planner who works with the state's Department of Water Resources.
The levees are old. We’re sitting on levees that were constructed over a hundred years ago, and we haven’t been really paying the true cost on maintenance and upkeep," he told NBCBayArea.
The problem is if a major flood event occurs, it could knock out the aqueduct system and contaminate the fresh drinking water supply that's kept separate from the salt water of the Pacific Ocean.
The cost of fixing the levee system could be upwards of $3 billion or more.