U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR REALITY CHECK: CALIFORNIA’S WATER CRISIS
RHETORIC: “TURN ON THE PUMPS”
Q. Some people are blaming the Obama Administration’s efforts to conserve salmon populations and the delta smelt, a threatened fish, for water shortages in the Central Valley. They are asking the federal government to turn on water pumps that deliver water through the Bay Delta to Central Valley users, but which - to protect the Bay Delta and fish populations - were recently subject to temporary pumping restrictions. Why won’t the Obama Administration turn the pumps on?
A. The pumps are on. The temporary pumping restrictions that were required under the Endangered Species Act ended on June 30th. They accounted for approximately one-quarter of 2009 water delivery shortages to farms and water users; the other three-quarters of this year’s delivery shortage
were the result of a lack of run-off.
Updated: September 17, 2009
To help alleviate water shortages caused by the lack of precipitation and pumping restrictions, the federal government’s Bureau of Reclamation has helped move more than 600,000 acre feet of water to communities in most need, and is taking steps to prepare for a potential fourth year of drought.
In addition, the Obama Administration is investing over $400 million (click here, here, and here [follow header link to find the active links]) through the President’s economic recovery plan to help modernize California’s water infrastructure, including over $40 million through the Bureau of Reclamation in emergency assistance to help water-short Central Valley farmers through the construction of temporary pipelines and pumps, new water wells, well-enhancement projects, and a groundwater monitoring effort.
RHETORIC: “REGULATORY DROUGHT”
Q: Is it true, as some people claim, that water shortages and high unemployment rates in California’s Central Valley are the result of a man-made, “regulatory” drought, as opposed to natural conditions?
A. Not true. California’s water crisis is even more troubling than critics contend. The state is in its third year of a severe drought, caused by below average precipitation and significantly lower run-off into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. As a result, one-third less water is available to the 25
million Californians who depend on the Bay Delta for their drinking water and for the farms in the Central Valley that produce half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. Moreover, California’s Bay Delta is in a state of full environmental collapse and the state’s water infrastructure, built fifty years ago for a population half as large, can’t handle the stress of the current crisis.
• For information from about historic precipitation levels and the drought’s causes, from the Bureau of Reclamation, click here, and from the California Department of Water Resources click here.
• To read about the challenges facing California’s outdated water infrastructure and California’s Bay Delta, click here.
• To read a Sacramento Bee editorial about the California water crisis, click here.
[follow header link above to find the active links]