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Key question: How much water?
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

The fundamental problem with water in California is that there is no honest accounting for how much water is available and how that water is allocated. Despite the fact that California has the most sophisticated water laws in the nation, and despite the fact that California has too many water agencies to keep track of (SWRCB, DWR, DSC, BDCP, CALFed, etc), none of them can tell us how much water California has to work with and where it is legally allocated to.

It is ridiculous to set out to build a massive water transfer facility using billions of taxpayers’ dollars without first identifying how much water will be made available and where the water will come from.

The SWRCB is preparing to set new Delta Flow Criteria, again without first identifying how much water is available, where it will come from and what the water rights priorities (pre-1914, Senior Rights, Junior Rights, riparian, etc.) are.

The BDCP is not really a “Plan” but rather a political agenda. A “plan” implies that an analysis of the technology, costs, and biological impacts of either a canal or tunnel has been completed. That is simply not the case. Backers of the canal or a tunnel can’t get it if the costs and benefits are tallied so they are ordering the project to be built and will study the costs and impacts over the next 10 years. Of course once the money is spent and it is determined there isn’t enough water to meet the needs of both the environment and 39 million Californians we will be in a real bind because we will have spent the money and not solved the real problem. 

There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that simply taking more water through the Delta will restore salmon populations. In fact, the National Research Council report on the Delta concluded there is no single factor that would “restore the delta.”  Rather they called for focusing on predation by non-native fish (striped bass), ammonia pollution from municipal waste discharges, flows and ocean harvest. As the battle over the Delta heats up over the next 30 days you will see two focuses (spin). First will be the commercial and sport fishing guys will tell you predation and harvest has nothing to do with the plight of salmon. They will tell you all that is needed is to have more water flow to the ocean. The other spin will come from Sacramento and D.C. They will tell you this is a fight between a handful of selfish Delta communities and special interests who are trying to keep their abundant water resources from being shared with the 25 million Southern Californians that desperately need this water. 

It would not take long to add up all the water California has to work with, apply California’s water rights laws and determine what is really available. No other process should be undertaken until that information is made available.

Jeff Shields
General Manager
South San Joaquin Irrigation District
July 21, 2012