Monday, June 04, 2007

Just where is the Delta?

It was amazing to me that a high number of the citizens of Stockton do not know where the Delta is. According to a survey reported today by the Stockton Record, that is the case. Even in Stockton, a large number of people only have a vague idea of what is really included when you say "the delta."

So, maybe I should lay off any castigation of those in Los Angeles or Eureka who don't think, like I do, that this is the second most important ecological issue in the State right now. It is unique to California and should be right up there with Global Warming as a issue that demands action. However, I will continue to try to educate everyone as to why they should be concerned and what they should be doing.

You can not separate the issues of California Water from those of Global Warming. If we fail to find a solution for global warming, the result will be a worsening of conditions for water storage and use in the Southwestern United States.
For the first time, IPCC scientists also looked at regional climate shifts in detail, concluding that precipitation in the American Southwest will decline as summer temperatures rise, just as precipitation in the Northeast will increase.
What that does not tell you is that more of the precipitation will fall as winter rain and less as snow, contributing to an increased likelihood of flooding. Our current system is designed to store most of the water in the Sierra snow pack to be release throughout the summer as it melts.

There are some in Stockton who get it, not the least of which is Mike Fitzgerald, columnist for the Stockton Record whose May 18 column urged his readers to "Forget the Whales, Save Delta."
If you want to show nature some love, how about embracing the idea that a river ought to run freshly from its watershed, through the Delta and to the sea?

That does not seem to be the prevailing thought up the San Joaquin River. Farmers and southern water users bitterly fought resurrecting the river for 16 years.

These guys, some of whom probably took their kids to see "Free Willy," actually do not believe a river should be natural. Or benefit all. Certainly not fish.

Drying the river killed its salmon. Species such as threadfin shad and striped bass are at their lowest numbers since the state started counting them a half-century ago.

Delta smelt? Scientists estimate only 35,000 survive, down from 800,000 just a few years ago. That is not the natural flux of species; that is a plunge toward extinction.

Yet the Department of Water Resources says it allows the giant water export pumps near Tracy to kill 5,000 smelt a year. Kill the solids, take the liquids. But save the whales.
Fitzgerald his it right, but then whales get all of the attention of Paris Hilton at a red carpet event.

I understand that a number of my readers have followed my advice to endorse the Sustainability Principles from the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN). Thank you for doing that. It does show that there is an increased public awareness, even if it is still minimal.

For those who wondered about just want C-WIN was doing, please read the following C-WIN press release and letter to the Lester Snow, the Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).


For Immediate Release

Press Contacts: Carolee Krieger, President, California Water Impact Network: (805) 969-0824
Lloyd Carter, Director, California Water Impact Network: (559) 304-5412

C-WIN Demands Reduced Delta Pumping as answer to Delta Eco-Crash

California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) is mismanaging our precious Bay Delta and misrepresenting the amount of water that can be safely sucked from the Delta for delivery to farmers and developers. The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), an organization dedicated to promoting sensible and sustainable water use throughout California, has asked DWR to dramatically and permanently lower the total amount of water it pledges to deliver under the State Water Project (SWP) delivery contracts from the current level of 4.1 million acre feet per year to a level that ensures average deliveries will not exceed 1.2 million acre feet per year. This reduction will help save the Delta and will give farmers and urban planners across the State a realistic picture of how much water will be available for use.

Currently, the SWP contracts pledge to deliver 4.1 million acre feet per year to water users south of the Delta, the same volume of water promised when the SWP was first approved in 1960. But, a lot has changed since 1960. “We now have a better appreciation of the importance of the health of the Delta and other aquatic ecosystems, an appreciation that is reflected in both state and federal environmental laws.” says C-WIN’s president, Carolee Krieger. As a result, Krieger notes, “between 1990 and 2004, the SWP was, on average, able to deliver only 2.0 million acre feet of water per year, slightly less than half the promised allocation.”

To deliver water to central and southern California, DWR must pump it out of the Delta into storage and transport facilities. But, pumping kills fish and disturbs Delta ecosystems. Even though deliveries have been far lower than the proposed 4.1 million acre feet for many years, the Delta is still dying. Recent fish surveys have revealed that the Delta smelt, considered an indicator of the health of the Delta, has plummeted to record low numbers and is on the verge of extinction.

Many SWP Water Contractors are selling their water rights to urban areas in Southern California. What usually changes hands in such transfers is the full amount of water promised to the seller. But, because DWR has historically been unable to deliver a substantial portion of the promised amount, this leaves the purchaser, often a municipal water district, holding a large amount of what is known as “paper water.” Paper water only exists on paper -- in the contracts -- and cannot be delivered. “The really dangerous thing about paper water is that it is being used to justify new construction throughout Southern California, even though it may never materialize,” says C-WIN’s Secretary, Dorothy Green, a well-known Southern California Water Activist.

According to language in each SWP Water Contract, DWR is required to reduce the amount of water it promises to deliver to reflect what it actually can deliver on a long-range basis. Doing so would get rid of the paper water. But, DWR has failed to obey the requirements of its own contracts.

C-WIN is asking DWR to permanently reduce the amount it promises in its contracts to reflect the real, biologically safe, capacity of the SWP to deliver the water. “If it fails to do so, new homeowners in Southern California may have nothing more than paper and hot air flowing from their taps,” according to Carolee Krieger. “It is absolutely critical for the people of California to understand what it happening with paper water,” says Dorothy Green. “Water policy in California is so complicated that the public is often left out of the decision making process,” Green says, “but the use of paper water to fuel development in Southern California threatens to further erode our quality of life. It must be stopped.”

C-Win Letter to Lester Snow

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