Response to the State Water Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan

This project includes the development of additional water that can be used for irrigation and wildlife enhancement purposes and to improve groundwater recharge in the area.

The State Water Resources Control Board has released its Water Quality Control Plan which, if implemented, will cause significant harm to California residents without quantifying any specific environmental benefits.waterboards_logo_high_res

In taking this step, Felicia Marcus, the Board’s Chairwoman noted that San Joaquin River flows have not been updated since 1995. We fully agree it’s time that state policy be aligned with current science which is why we find this proposal so wrongheaded. Science clearly shows that decades of releasing water to the ocean has failed to halt the decline of Chinook salmon and Delta smelt. 

And yet, the Board proposes to flush out to sea enough water to serve the domestic needs of 2 million Californians or produce almost 5.8 billion salads. If we know twenty years of failed efforts won’t do the job, why not try some of the proposed alternatives first? 

Chairwoman Marcus goes on to say that “The issue is not about choosing one over the other. It is about sharing the river because Californians need and want healthy communities, healthy agriculture and a healthy natural environment.” We couldn’t agree more. The only way farmers survive is by being good stewards of the land, and we’re not alone. We hope that the Board will listen to the voices of education officials, health departments, farmers, Latinos, cities, economic development officials and more who have all spoken out about the need to find a solution that works for all instead of continuing to rely on failed strategies. It’s time we moved on to solutions that science tells us will help.

Below, some of the people that will be impacted by this new plan give their thoughts:

Drinking Water Quality and Availability Will Be Negatively Impacted

“Let us be clear. The detrimental impacts of the Board’s plan will be felt strongly by the children that we serve. . . it is unclear why you have not taken the time to study the financial implications to school districts that would be forced to provide bottled water and portable toilets, or relocate schools entirely, as wells go dry. . . Access to drinking water and water for sanitation is a basic requirement for us to fulfill our mandate to provide quality education to the children of our districts.”

Steven Gomes, Merced County Superintendent of Schools
Tom Changnon, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools

“Many communities in the Merced area are already experiencing well production problems and drinking water quality issues . . . Over 800,000 people live in the two counties [Stanislaus and Merced]. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for the majority of the local population. The plan sorely understates the devastation this recommendation will cause. As an Interim Director of Environmental Health, I am required to ensure that safe, adequate, and dependable water supplies are available for domestic use.”

Vicki Jones, Interim Director of Environmental Health
Merced County Department of Public Health

Jobs and the Economy Will Suffer

“Over 55% of the residents of Stanislaus County are members of minority communities, with a majority of those residents being Latinos. As you know, our economy is largely driven by the agricultural sector, of which Latino workers play a vital role. Our unemployment rates in Stanislaus County are already consistently higher than the state and national averages. There is no doubt that your plan will have devastating economic consequences to an already disadvantaged region.”

Maggie Mejia, President
Latino Community Roundtable

“I am all for protecting the environment to the best of our ability, but not at the expense of our farmers, businesses and citizens. . . When farmers are forced to fallow more land, our food prices go up and the poor in our communities suffer the greatest. This proposal will raise the cost of water and electricity, as well.”

Pamela LaChapell

“As the Director of Environmental Resources for the County, I am responsible for the administration and oversight of over 200 public water systems, approximately 2,000 retail food facilities and countless other businesses. This would be devastating to the local economy.”

Jami Aggers, Director of Environmental Resources
Stanislaus County

“We grew up in Stanislaus County and our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all farmers. . . We also are grateful that our children were raised here and their children will be raised here . . .Without water there will be many of us who will not be able to farm and those that work the fields and canneries during the harvest will be unemployed and unable to feed their families, buy clothing and supplies in our local stores. Our electricity costs will increase and our ground water will be depleted . . . we implore you to reconsider.”

George and Annemarie Espinola

“Food production is a multi-billion dollar industry in our county and adds tremendous value to the State of California. . . Tens of thousands of people are dependent on jobs in agriculture, food processing, and its related industries. Our businesses pay millions of dollars in taxes each year to sustain our state government . . . We ask that you please consider our needs in the Central Valley with others’ needs and wants.”

David White, Chief Executive Officer
Stanislaus Business Alliance

And yet the Board wants to keep doing more of the same even though it has been proven ineffective  

“Simply flushing water down the river in the spring and fall does not work – a fact supported by more than two decades of proven science.”

Robbie Lake
French Camp

“I’ve lived on the Stanislaus for 40 years. Salmon are declining and the striped bass are increasing. What the state is doing is creating the opposite effect of what it says it wants.”

Jeff McPhee

“[The proposed regulation] is yet another demonstration of the complete disregard you hold for the people you are supposed to be serving. . . I encourage you to reduce your personal water use by 35% and pour that extra water into the street and watch it flow away. That is what you would be doing to the people you serve.”

Roxanne Garbez

People Are Asking for Common Sense, Balance and an End to Tactics That Just Make a Bad Situation Worse

“We need a common sense approach to how this water is used. . . In your efforts to help, you are creating a bigger problem than we had before.”

Nancy Petersen

“We have worked hard to be good citizens and lower our water usage in the face of this drought. In fact, the Central Valley has led the state in water conservation efforts . . . We implore you to send staff to meet with us and come up with a common sense approach to this situation.”

David White, Chief Executive Officer
Stanislaus Business Alliance

“Why add water to the ocean? Does it need more?”

Suzy Fivecoat

“It is time we manage our water resource in a way that is fair to everyone and strikes a balance between water supply and the environment.”

Roseanna Swanberg

Statement on the upcoming release of proposed flow standards for tributaries to the San Joaquin River

Flowing River

Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade on the upcoming release of proposed flow standards for tributaries to the San Joaquin River

California officials are on the verge of releasing new water regulations

waterboards_logo_high_resthat would cause significant harm to California residents without quantifying any specific environmental benefits.

The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to release its Water Quality Control Plan on Thursday, September 15 that would set new requirements for water flowing in tributaries to the San Joaquin River.

The expected result is the direct loss of 350,000 acre-feet of water that is currently used to grow food on 100,000 acres of prime farmland. It is enough water to serve the domestic needs of 2 million Californians or produce almost 5.8 billion salads.

“If implemented, the State Water Board’s rule will have a devastating impact on drinking water, sanitation needs, food production, the economy and jobs for people stretching from the Northern San Joaquin Valley throughout the Bay Area. That’s why this regulation is opposed by schools, health departments, farmers, Latinos, cities, economic development officials and more,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“It is unbelievable that our government would propose regulations that their own staff say will put farms out of business, reduce water supplies and have negative impacts on groundwater. Yet they can’t tell us what, if anything, this will do to protect the environment.

“The reason they cannot demonstrate benefit is because science clearly shows that decades of releasing water to the ocean has failed to halt the decline of Chinook salmon and Delta smelt. It is time to stop relying on failed strategies and move on to solutions that science tells us will help.”

Central Valley Project Users Can’t Get a Break

Dead Citrus Trees

WATER SUPPLIES ARE better than normal in Northern California, so why is it that Central Valley Project (CVP) water users can’t get a break? The water users in question are the farms and ranches in the San Joaquin Valley that rely on the federal Central Valley Project water conveyance system. They are set to receive a meager 5 percent of their water supply this year.

It’s the middle of May and rainfall in the northern Sierra is currently 111 percent of normal. Lake Shasta is 93 percent full and 108 percent of its year-to-date average. By all accounts there is sufficient water in the system operated by the federal government to meet the needs that the CVP was designed to serve – irrigation and municipal water supplies. But the priority for the project in the last two decades has shifted from providing water for people to being geared toward environmental demands. This almost complete reallocation of California’s federal water supply has reached a point where the people paying for the project are no longer able to rely on it to serve their needs.

The ripple effect reaches an area in excess of 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) – more than one-third of the irrigated cropland in California. In contrast, California’s other large water supplier, the State Water Project, is delivering a 60 percent allocation to its customers. Many other areas of the state are on track to receive 75– 100 percent of their normal water supply.

Water districts find themselves in the same position as Oliver Twist asking for an additional spoonful of gruel – and it’s looking less likely that they will get any.

The newly styled CVP management impacts go far beyond the farms receiving the pittance of water being delivered to the San Joaquin Valley. The kicker is that without farmers paying for irrigation water the repayment of the construction costs of the CVP falls behind, and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs escalate for other users within the CVP. Federal water users in Northern California have seen O&M prices more than double because they end up carrying a greater share of those costs when water supplies are shorted elsewhere in the state.

What is occurring is a slow-motion train wreck. Much of the blame can be placed on federal fishery managers overseeing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with a myopic view of what constitutes effective protection for Chinook salmon and delta smelt. Water supplies have been cut over the last 24 years in favor of fishery management but the fish aren’t doing any better. In fact they’re worse off than they were before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in after Congress passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act in 1992.

According to Dr. Sean Hayes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the awareness of other stressors is now more prevalent, which includes invasive species, predators, poor ocean conditions and the loss of salmon and smelt-rearing habitat. Yet fishery managers continue to limit farm water deliveries on the Sacramento River and through the Delta as their only tool to try to protect the fish.

Dead Citrus Trees
Citrus Trees Lost Due to Drought and Water Supply

A mild shift in how we manage the problems affecting the Delta can pay big dividends in the future. Fishery managers need to pay attention to emerging science. Allowing unlimited fishing for predators in “hot spots” where they are known to congregate can help salmon in the short term. Investing in tidal marsh habitat will provide more natural areas for young salmon and delta smelt to grow, giving them a fighting chance for survival and reproduction. And installing a barrier at the head of Old River will help maintain a more natural flow through the Delta, keeping fish on track during their migration.

Taxpayers have shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars in this failed effort, both in direct costs supporting the Endangered Species Act and in aid to families displaced when farm jobs and the water that supports them are taken away. It’s time for a comprehensive look at how we manage our water resources. The taxpaying public, water users, local communities and our environment deserve better.

Farmers helping fish

Figure2b_RedwoodCreek-1There has been considerable conflict lately between water users and fishery managers over the operation of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Biological opinions dating back to 2008 and 2009 have wreaked havoc on water supplies for farms, homes and businesses in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Between December 1, 2015 and April 4, 2016, 913,000 acre-feet of water that could have been put into storage for use later this summer instead went out to the ocean with no measurable environmental benefits. That represents almost 300 billion gallons, or enough water to meet the domestic needs of 5.3 million people for a full year.

That’s why it’s refreshing to hear some positive news about partnerships that benefit both people and the environment. Oakdale Irrigation District and South San Joaquin Irrigation District recently approved a plan to sell up to 75,000 acre-feet of water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who have been largely cut off from water deliveries because of the salmon and Delta smelt biological opinions. The water sale benefits the environment because the timing of the releases is being coordinated with environmental pulse flows, which helps push salmon down the Stanislaus River to the Pacific Ocean. Hopefully, three years from now, they will have grown and return to spawn in the river. That’s assuming that the baby salmon can avoid the voracious predatory bass lurking in the Delta that some studies indicate consume over 90 percent of the out-migrating baby salmon.

The water sale benefits the environment because the timing of the releases is being coordinated with environmental pulse flows

The benefit of the transfer revenues to both Oakdale and South San Joaquin Districts is a furtherance of their investments in advancing water conservation activities back home. That’s a triple bottom line if there ever was one. The ecosystem benefits through timing of fish flows. San Joaquin Valley farmers benefit because they faced little to no surface water deliveries for the past three years. And the overall efficiency of California’s water supply system benefits through improved water use efficiency and conservation.

Let’s seek more solutions like that.

NRDC’s “Drought Report Card” Gets an “Incomplete”

NRDC’s “Drought Report Card” Gets an “Incomplete”

NRDC’s “Drought Report Card” gets an “incomplete” for using a flawed report as the basis of its poor grade for agriculture. NRDC’s 2014 report, “The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply: Efficiency, Reuse, and Stormwater,” cowritten with the Pacific Institute, was used as the basis for its recent “report card.”

Old Data

Much of the agricultural section of its 2014 report is actually based on a 2009 Pacific Institute Report. At the time, the Pacific Institute estimated that 3.4 million acre-feet of water savings were attainable through improved irrigation scheduling. That number was based on a 1997 DWR survey of just 55 farmers who claimed a 13 percent savings in applied water by incorporating CIMIS data into irrigation scheduling. The Pacific Institute also assumed back in the 2009 report that only 20 percent of farmers were using some sort of irrigation scheduling, so it applied the 13 percent savings to the remaining 80 percent in each of California’s hydrologic basins to arrive at its 3.4 MAF number. That’s quite a stretch.

Drip in watermelons
Subsurface drip irrigation in watermelons. Similar systems have been installed on millions of acres of California farmland at a cost of over $3 billion since 2003.

A much better benchmark for agricultural water savings took place a year later. In 2010 the Agricultural Water ManagementCouncil also surveyed farmers about water use efficiency. The AWMC survey included 414 farmers statewide and found that 57 percent used CIMIS data or an irrigation consultant to schedule their irrigation.

Yet today, 15 years after DWR’s small survey of 55 farmers, we see reports like this using the same tired and speculative numbers to justify criticism of agricultural water use efficiency.

Cherry Picking

NRDC and the Pacific Institute were happy to cite estimates from DWR in a 2013 report that said applied water might be higher in agriculture than previously thought (California Simulation of Evapotranspiration of Applied Water and Agricultural Energy Use in California PDF). At the same time they ignored DWR’s assessment elsewhere in the report about evolving cropping patterns in California toward higher-value crops and high-efficiency irrigation. DWR stated, “As a result of these trends in irrigation methods, the adoption and usage of ET information for scheduling has increased considerably.

At the same time they ignored DWR’s assessment elsewhere in the report about evolving cropping patterns in California toward higher-value crops and high-efficiency irrigation. DWR stated, “As a result of these trends in irrigation methods, the adoption and usage of ET information for scheduling has increased considerably.

The CalFed Bay-Delta Program assessment, mentioned in the 2014 NRDC/Pacific Institute report, uses DWR’s “Projection Level 6” (PL-6), or the maximum possible investment in water use efficiency to attain 4.3 million acre-feet in water savings. DWR’s estimated cost for that was $1.6 billion per year.

Unrealistic Estimates

In the 2009 California Water Plan Update, DWR stated, “Projection Level 6 is “unrealistic” and “impractical.” The Department went on to say, “Projection Level 6 represents a perfect irrigation system and management performance not attainable in production agriculture.” The CalFed Bay-Delta Program’s 2006 Comprehensive Evaluation also said that Projection Level 6 “…was intended to serve as a reference point, or bookend, to evaluate other projection levels and should not be part of the planning document.”

The CalFed Bay-Delta Program’s 2006 Comprehensive Evaluation also said that Projection Level 6 “…was intended to serve as a reference point, or bookend, to evaluate other projection levels and should not be part of the planning document.”

Yet the Pacific Institute’s reported Ag Water Conservation and Efficiency Potential takes CalFed’s PL-6 even further and applies a 100 percent efficiency level, rather than CalFed’s more realistic 70 percent level. Only by stretching the CalFed numbers and applying them to 100 percent of California’s agricultural land are they able to arrive at their grossly inflated 6.6 MAF estimate of conservation potential that NRDC used as the basis for its “report card.”

Rather than stretching the facts about agricultural water use, let’s let the public decide if water for food and fiber is a good deal.

Treated recycled water added to farmers’ arsenal of water supplies

(The following is a statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, in response to the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program that is planned to deliver treated recycled water to farmers.)
SACRAMENTO—“The California Farm Water Coalition applauds the cities of Turlock and Modesto as they celebrate the certification of the Environmental Impact Report for the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program (NVRRWP). The partnership of the cities with Del Puerto Water District will provide a new source of both agricultural and environmental water. The partnership should be seen as an example of the benefits that can result from working together where possible for the shared goal of providing for California’s citizens, its wildlife, and its farms.

“The current drought has been disastrous for many farmers: with no surface water allocation and groundwater supplies dwindling, providing the crops that keep Californians fed has become a challenge. With strengthened alliances and innovative technologies, the partners of the NVRRWP have identified an innovative way to recycle water and provide for all of the region’s stakeholders. Improving water management across regions in a basin helps to ensure water resources are being responsibly overseen and that critically important basin-level efficiency is enhanced.

“Farmers in the area, and across the state, have sought other sources of surface water where possible, through transfer agreements between regions with available water to areas of need. Locally, farmers continue to expand the use of water smart technology for use on their farms, improving not only the water efficiency, but often the market quality of the products being demanded by consumers. Farmers are not only accelerating the installation of drip irrigation systems, but use automation-assisted tractors to aid in planting and growing, and are adopting scientific irrigation scheduling and soil moisture monitoring that assist farmers in knowing when and how much water to apply to their crops.

“The North Valley Regional Recycled water Program is a good model of urban, agricultural, environmental, and regulatory cooperation on water supply issues.”

It takes water to grow food


It takes water to grow food

Table of AWEPCrops
California grows more food using less water

Are we really using too much water to grow food in California? The simple fact is that it takes water to grow food no matter where in the world you till the soil. Critics claim that the consumption of California farm products is somehow contributing to the drought. That is an unwise assertion and here’s why.

California produces about half of the nation’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables and does it more efficiently and responsibly. They’re the kinds of foods that nutritionists say we should be eating as part of a healthy lifestyle. Consumers want choices and California’s 400 different commodities gives them exactly that. California also produces food products more efficiently than anywhere else in the U.S. and more specifically the world. California is one of only five Mediterranean climates on earth and the only one in the United States. Growing what we grow here simply isn’t possible in most other places.

California is the natural place to grow food

Factors such as wet winters and dry summers, soil characteristics and the right number of days with the right number of frost-free temperatures that make California the food producer that it is. Massachusetts, for example, will never be able to compete with California in terms of food production. And no amount of genetic engineering will be able to sufficiently get around the climate and soil type advantage that California enjoys.

Finding other states to replace California farm production isn’t practical and importing more of our food supply from other countries has its own share of risks and problems. California already imports twice as much “virtual water” in the products consumed here than is exported in the things we produce. Increasing the amount of food imported from other countries contributes to this imbalance.

California is the efficient place to grow food

What we should focus on is growing food in places where it can be produced as efficiently as possible. Artichokes, lettuce, spinach and many other vegetables are produced year-round thanks to seasonal differences from the Imperial and Coachella valleys in the south through the San Joaquin and Salinas valleys northward. The Sacramento Valley grows all of the sushi rice produced in the U.S. An amazing 85 percent of the U.S.-produced fresh citrus comes from California. Tree fruits and nuts that require cold winters and hot summers grow better in California than anywhere else as well. It simply makes more sense to grow food where it can be produced efficiently and transport it to consumers where they live. The alternative is to struggle to grow food on the wrong soils or in the wrong climate where production efficiencies are lower and water, labor and pest control inputs are higher.

The solution proposed by California’s farm critics- that we look elsewhere for our food supply- would mean that millions of consumers have fewer selections, lower quality and higher prices for the kinds of healthy choices they want for their families.


Many Delta Stressors Impacting Delta Smelt and Delta Health

Delta bass predation

There are far bigger issues affecting the Delta than water exports and Delta bass predationreturning to a time prior to Western development is unrealistic.

To describe the Delta as altered is to say that New York City is populous or California water politics contentious. Since the 19th century when locals began to reclaim the marshlands, dike the rivers, and develop settlements on the rivers- the history of the Delta has long been one of change. California’s largest river delta, the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta has been forever altered by human habitation. Little remains of the complex estuary network of tidal wetlands, freshwater rivers and recurring saline incursions.

Long gone are the nuanced networks of sloughs and wetlands that once dominated the historic delta. Today’s Delta is a scene dominated by numerous dried islands often sitting 20-30 feet below the water level just beyond the 1100 miles of earthen dikes. Plans exist to restore more than 30,000 acres of riparian and wetland habitat, but to date these plans continue to undergo environmental review.

Beyond the edges of these islands ongoing dredging of channels for deepwater shipping to the inland port cities of Stockton and Sacramento applies greater pressure to the species looking for shallow water habitat.

The Delta today is one of artificially fresh water- held far to the west of pre-project development, flows originating in the state’s network of reservoirs now support in-delta diversions for use by in-delta agriculture, cities as near as Stockton and as far away as San Diego. It is used to grow avocados on small farms near San Diego and organic cantaloupee near Firebaugh, among more than 300 other types of food and fiber that rely on water flowing through the Delta. as well as providing water to more than 25 million Californians.

There are numerous stressors impacting the health of the Delta and the threatened and endangered species living there, including the Delta Smelt. The region’s biosphere has changed dramatically and is now dominated by invasive species that have decimated native fish populations.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has stated that predation by non-native bass on winter-run salmon is a “major stressor,” while widespread invasive Asian clams and other species continue to alter the delta’s complex food network. Industrial chemicals being found in species at the mouth of the bay are also tied to what has been called Pelagic organism decline by researchers studying the health of the Delta.

Regarding the decline of the Delta Smelt, the federal agency responsible for studying and restoring threatened species, the Fish and Wildlife Service, acknowledges that we are unable to determine with certainty which threats or combinations of threats are directly responsible.” Since 1994, Fishery and wildlife regulators have limited their focus to delta exports, though the agency acknowledges that its “existing regulatory mechanisms have not proven adequate to stop the fish’s decline since its listing nearly 20 years ago.

Yet sensational news stories continue, declaring water exports culpable- “With Just Six Delta Smelt Left, Controversial California Fish Species Faces Impending Extinction” and “Threatened Smelt Touches Off Battles in California’s Endless Water Wars” but scientists who study the complex Delta ecosystem suggest that this claim is likely overly simplistic. Researchers discussing the issue with the Wall Street Journal noted that “Other studies have noted that the biggest driver of species abundance in the delta is precipitation, which may explain why the smelt population has plummeted over the past four years of drought after rebounding in 2011—a wet year.”


Suggested changes to the Delta export facilities, intended to reduce possible impacts to threatened and endangered species while restoring reliability to water supplies remain under review, and could allow the Delta to return to a more natural condition, while restoring water supply reliability to more than 25 million Californians and millions of acres of the most productive farmland on the planet.

Drought Fact Sheet – April 2015

In April of 2015, farms in California had sustained multiple years of severely restricted water supplies, and went unmentioned in a declaration by Governor Brown requiring mandatory conservation among California’s urban water users. Recognizing the significant efforts by agriculture, Governor Brown rebuked attacks that he hadn’t asked enough from California’s farms and rural communities in a national interview with ABC News. During the interview he recognized the many thousands of acres fallowed, and the threat to rural communities.

[gview file=””]

Mismanaging Floods in a Drought – Updated 12-15-2014

Reduced Pumping Now May Protect Future Supplies

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are experimenting with pumping reductions for several days to prevent a “turbidity bridge” from occurring in the central and south Delta. Delta smelt are attracted to turbid, or cloudy, water because it provides shelter from potential predators, such as non-native bass. According to a statement today by DWR, “Foregoing the capture of tens of thousands of acre-feet of water over the next several days may allow water project operators to avoid the loss of hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water supply later in the winter.”

Turbidity Reduced Pumping in 2012

In December 2012, a plume of turbidity that extended into the central Delta helped to create the situation in which water project operators severely curtailed pumping storm runoff in order to avoid harm to smelt. As a result, hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water were not moved into reservoir storage.

Will the Risk Pay Off?

Clearly there is risk associated with a decision like this. We hope the risk pays off.


Mismanaging Floods in a Drought (12-12-2014)

While this week’s big storm dropped significant amounts of rain and snow in California, many water users worry that we are on track to repeat the disaster of last year. Hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water were in the system and Delta pumps were almost completely shut down. It surprises many that we are mismanaging floods in a drought. As it turned out, last year’s wasted water resulted in most South of Delta water users getting a zero allocation and the state suffering significant economic and social damage with no measurable environmental benefits.

As this really big storm brings its bounty of water we are situated just like we were 12 months ago except that now the State’s reservoirs and its groundwater are substantially more depleted than they were exactly one year ago.

Pumping plants are running at reduced levels

Last week, the C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant at Tracy was running at a pathetic 19.7% of capacity. This week it is running at 60% capacity, or 2,600 cubic feet per second (cfs) out of a permitted level of 4,300 cfs. Delta outflows, in comparison, are six to over 30 times the permitted export level.

Water Flow_0048The possibility of Delta smelt will prevent additional pumping

Delta inflows are rising dramatically and with very high outflow, perhaps exceeding 100,000 cfs, a significant amount of water is available for export to put into storage for next year’s crop season. Many agencies will be in flood control management mode. Nonetheless, with the state in a historic drought, pumping is likely to be sharply curtailed due to the possibility that smelt are cloaked in the turbid water stirred up by storm flows. Except for a marginal theoretic benefit to Delta smelt, the entire southern half of the state would be able to access this precious resource, which instead will be turned to salt in the Pacific Ocean.

This is just the kind of Kafkaesque nightmare the Emergency Drought Legislation sought to relieve… at least around the margins.

Perhaps the crystal ball is wrong. If not, let’s hope this year we are better prepared to make the case that such behavior is blatantly contrary to the public interest.