Monday, April 02, 2007

Delta in Court

Another court case threatens delta water and though it probably won’t stop the pumps, it is another reminder of the fragility of the legal balancing act underlying the ability of Californians to move water from the water-rich north to the water-poor south.

Don't take the delta for granted
A recent court ruling should serve as a reminder of the fragility of California's water supply.
April 2, 2007

WATER SHOULDN'T be taken for granted in California, a state where billions of gallons are conveyed over thousands of miles to millions of customers. And yet it is. Turn a faucet and, abracadabra, the stuff flows. Most of us don't know where it comes from, how it gets here or where it's stored. Politicians often ignore it too, preferring to focus on (what seem like) more pressing crises.

But a recent ruling by the Alameda County Superior Court is a reminder that this shouldn't be the case. The decision says that California's State Water Project, which moves water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to other parts of the state, is in violation of the Endangered Species Act because its enormous pumps kill endangered fish. The judge gave the state 60 days to get a waiver or he will shut the pumps down.

That probably won't happen. But make no mistake: The state's water system is in trouble.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta provides water for 25 million Californians — including 60% of Southern California's supply — and supports $400 billion of economic activity, including fishing and farming. And demands on it will only grow. California's population is expected to jump 30% in the next 20 years, while global warming could reduce the state's snowpack (and the water flows it creates) by the end of the century.