SAN FRANCISCO (May 6, 2008) – The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released a preliminary analysis of a possible aqueduct to divert water from the Sacramento River to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. It is the first time in decades that state water officials have taken a serious look at sending Sacramento River water around, instead of through, the San Francisco Bay-Delta.
Following is a statement by Barry Nelson, Director of the Western Water Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“Instead of including new ideas, DWR’s analysis reflects the same flawed approach that led California voters to roundly reject the Peripheral Canal more than 25 years ago (in 1982).
“DWR’s analysis shows that a Peripheral Canal could result in massive new freshwater diversions at a time when salmon and other fish species are crashing, when the salmon fishery has been closed for the first time ever, and the ailing Delta can barely support its vital role as a source of clean drinking water for millions of Californians. The Delta needs more fresh water, not less.
“The DWR analysis is biased in favor of increasing Delta water diversions, most of which go to agriculture, not California’s cities. The analysis envisions exporting as much as 1.5 million acre-feet more water than has ever been pumped from the Delta historically. The analysis disguises the magnitude of the increase by assuming an imaginary “reference case” that substantially increases exports over existing levels, despite the harm to the Delta that has resulted from such high levels of pumping.
“The massive new diversions included within this analysis would be a disaster for the San Francisco Bay-Delta, delta communities and farms, and California’s salmon fishermen. It would worsen water quality and worsen conditions for salmon on the Sacramento River, which is the backbone of the state’s salmon fishery. It is astonishing that DWR chose to ignore the collapse of California’s salmon fishery, as well as court-ordered protections for the delta smelt, in its analysis.
“California water officials are simply moving in the wrong direction. The solution is to pump less, not more, water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta system.”