“The Bay Delta Conservation Plan sets out a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) designed to restore and protect ecosystem health, water supply and water quality within a stable regulatory framework. The BDCP reflects the outcome of a multiyear collaboration between public water agencies, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, nongovernment organizations, agricultural interests and the general public.”
Bay Delta Conservation Plan Introduction
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan represents a seven-year effort by water industry professionals working in the Delta for more than 40 years to develop a plan that increases water supply reliability and restores ecosystem resources in the Delta. The water supply for almost 4,000 farms and 25 million Californians has become increasingly unreliable in the wake of environmental pressures unforeseen at the time our existing water supply system was conceived. Experts say that climate change and earthquakes pose additional risks to our water supply.
Why is the BDCP so important for California? Because it helps restore critical habitat for native fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and it will help restore water deliveries to areas of the state where water supply cuts have left communities devastated and thousands of people looking for jobs. To erase any question of the hardship that exists in some of California’s most productive food growing regions, the chart below shows the direct connection between reduced water supplies and unemployment.
For consumers who shop for local, California-grown food products the risk is just as real. Reduced water supplies for farmers this year are already having an effect on the land that would have been used to grow food next year. Much of what would have been planted to annually produce fresh fruit and vegetables will now lie fallow because of water shortages. That can affect what is available at the grocery store and how much it will cost.
Many concerns about potential impacts exist within the Delta, which is the focus of the BDCP, as well as upstream and downstream areas. There are serious questions that need to be answered and that process is underway. The BDCP public review draft is due out this fall and the public will have an opportunity to submit comments to help improve it. The BDCP also includes a planned adaptive management strategy that is designed to address issues and concerns over the life of the project in order to minimize or eliminate any potentially negative impacts.
California’s water supply and environmental problems are significant and in one way or another they affect almost everyone in the state. The BDCP is a big solution at a time when it is needed most, but it isn’t the only element needed for the future. New storage designed to capture water during wet periods will help meet future water supply needs including water quality improvements and in-stream flow requirements for fish and the aquatic ecosystem.
A small investment by everyone today will help ensure long term water supply reliability, adequate water for our farms and ecosystem restoration activities that will benefit some of California’s native and most iconic fish species.