In our last installment in our Campaign 2018 series, Managing Science, Uncertainty and Risk in the Delta, we talked about the need to take bold actions, learn and adapt. This series has established that an alternative approach to managing the Delta is desperately needed.
Much of what happens today in the Delta is focused solely on managing the system in an attempt to benefit a handful of Endangered Species Act-listed fish. These current management actions and policies focus heavily on flow manipulations and export restrictions on the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), which pit human needs against those of fish. This approach has been followed for more than two decades and the evidence of its failure is clear. Endangered species are not recovering.
A new integrated ecosystem-based approach, which addresses a multitude of environmental stressors and seeks to improve the overall health of the ecosystem, is a far better approach. An ecosystem-based approach will allow for improving overall ecosystem function and conditions, including improved food web productivity, habitat and water quality. Such an approach, when combined with thoughtful adaptive management and structured decision making, may be the formula water managers are searching for as California endeavors to meet the dual goals of ecosystem and economic improvement – as required by law.
Getting regulators and the regulated community to work together and change the historic species-by-species approach won’t be easy, but in this case, it is vital. We have discussed how the next Governor must be prepared to take bold actions on water management. A new integrated and comprehensive ecosystem-wide approach in the Delta is action No. 1. Only then can we expect to improve conditions for both fish and human needs and meet the environmental and economic needs of our State.