Curtailed water transfers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have so far translated into an estimated loss of more than 700,000 acre-feet of water that otherwise would have been stored for future use by California farms and families.
State and federal officials recently said that cutting back pumps to protect delta smelt, which in past weeks have been drawn into the water transfer equipment, underscores the need for extensive habitat improvements and a new water conveyance system around the delta.
They conceded that immediate fixes and interim measures to address the current conflict are few, although they did ease the pumping restrictions later in the week.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says it is joining state agencies in discussions about potential alternatives to help simultaneously meet the needs of fish and water users during what is shaping up to be a dry year. The federal agency also re-emphasized its commitment to move forward with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a 50-year, multi-species habitat conservation plan.
Another Crisis With Delta Smelt
Calling last week’s curtailment a “crisis,” officials say about 75 percent of the year’s “incidental take” of adult delta smelt allowed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has already occurred.
Because hydrologic conditions since mid-January have been dry and the water transfer pumps have been cut back, the Fresno-based Westlands Water District advised farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley to anticipate no more than a 20 percent contract-water allocation for the new season.
During the past few weeks, water from the delta originally destined for farms, homes and businesses has instead flowed to the ocean in an effort to comply with the ESA.
California Farm Bureau originally published this story.