January 2016

Pumping restrictions intended to protect fish that went into effect last week will limit the ability to capture storm flows. The latest restrictions come as another welcomed series of storms is expected to dump more rain and snow on California.

The regulatory action is a bad sign for residents and farmers who rely on the Delta. The latest restrictions are yet another indication that California’s water supply system is hopelessly broken.

Stormwater flows that could be utilized for parched cities and farms will now be lost to the ocean. As we lose this precious water, we lose the opportunity to save water for dry months. Water flushed out to the ocean could be used for California’s families or farmers.
The action came before even a single smelt had been known to be harmed this year by the pumps. First established in 2008, the restrictions are an attempt to help protect smelt populations.

Since December 1st, 83,000 acre-feet has already been lost to the ocean as a result of restrictions to protect fish. This amount of water could have provided water for more than 184,000 families for 1 year, irrigated more than 27,000 acres of farmland, and represents approximately 643 lost jobs as a result of fallowed farmland*.

Yet even with all this water in the system, last week’s restrictions will require even more water to be lost to the ocean. And for what? In the years since restrictions have been put in place, there is no hard scientific evidence showing any recovery of these endangered populations.

The current water system isn’t working. Not for fish, not for residents, not for farmers.

*(Howitt, MacEwan, Medellin-Azuara, Lund, & Sumner, 2015) assumes three-four acre feet of water is used on each acre of farmland, assumes 129 af of lost water results in 1 lost job. Assumes the average American family of 4 consumes 146,000 gallons, or 0.45 acre feet, of water per year