California drought creates grim ripple effect
07/16/14 07:23 AM—Updated 07/16/14 12:24 PM
By Balazs Gardi and Shoka Javadiangilani
Unlike the south, there is always water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; the issue is the quality. The Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers supply the fresh water flow that holds back the Bay’s intruding seawater. The less the rivers flow or the more the State pumps to the south, the saltier the Delta’s water becomes, making it harder for farmers to use for irrigation, costlier to filter to quench the thirst of city dwellers, and almost impossible for its habitat to survive.
To mitigate the habitat loss caused by dams that interrupted the natural migration of the native Chinook salmon, today most of them start their life in hatcheries. Earlier this year, young fish were loaded onto trucks to bypass the shallow river, a common practice that gives them a better chance to survive once released in the Bay.
“We’ve been in drought for 30 years because we’ve been over-pumped for 30 years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parilla of Restore the Delta said, who looks at the Delta as a natural heritage that needs protection rather than a source of a finite commodity with only one beneficial use: production. “We got the tail wagging the dog. You have the people in the south, that have the most political control who want water that they should never have had – just trying to bully their way to the table to change the whole system,” she said.