California's 2009 Water Supply Announcement Demonstrates Need to Tap Into the "Virtual River"

DWR's announcement of initial water delivery allocations is a painful reminder of the need to reduce our dependence on the Delta as the major water supply source, and to instead tap into the "Virtual River" of water conservation, efficiency, groundwater cleanup, and stormwater capture to meet California's water needs. As the Governor's Delta Vision task force recently concluded, and as the courts have found, we need to dramatically change how we manage water and the Delta ecosystem, and that generally means that less water, not more, can be exported from the Delta. At the same time, numerous studies have found that water conservation and the other water supply sources of the Virtual River provide far more water, at a far lower cost, than building new reservoirs.

From crashing salmon populations that migrate through the Delta, to the collapse of delta smelt and other pelagic fish species that live year round in the Delta, it is clear that the amount of water exported from the Delta in recent years was unsustainable and has played an important role in the $170M closure of the salmon fishery this year. Protecting fish and wildlife in the Delta protects all of us - fishermen, farmers, and urban consumers.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed that 2009 is a wet year, but we must be prepared for a third dry year, and that means conserving water and using it as efficiently as possible. And because this is likely a harbinger of things to come with climate change, it is all the more important that we begin transitioning away from reliance on the Delta and investing in fish friendly, cost-effective water supply alternatives. Enacting legislation to strenghen water conservation efforts in California, like AB 2175, is a critical step towards reducing our dependence on the Delta and protecting salmon, delta smelt, and the Delta ecosystem.