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Restore the Delta Helps Shape the Debate

One of the essential roles Restore the Delta plays is to constantly counter the lies and media stunts used by Big Ag to hoard water needed by all Californians and our environment.

Here’s a perfect example from last week…

No, California isn’t ‘flushing water to the ocean,’ despite what Fresno politicians say – Fresno Bee 5/7/21

…For an alternative viewpoint, I phoned Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director and co-founder of Restore the Delta, and asked how she reacts each time she hears about all the water California “flushes” out to sea.

“Years ago I would’ve gotten angry,” Barrigan-Parrilla said. “Now I just get sad that there are people leading us who couldn’t stay awake during eighth-grade geography.”

The Delta is our state’s largest and most productive estuary — by far — and like all estuaries it depends on an influx of fresh water. Further reducing those flows (i.e. by diverting more for agriculture in our neck of the woods) would only hasten environmental and economic ruin someplace else.

Without fresh water, Barrigan-Parrilla explained the Delta’s sloughs and waterways would go stagnant by allowing nitrogen discharges to accumulate. (Fertilizer is among the primary sources.) Those pollutants grow into toxic algae blooms that kill wildlife and cause an array of health problems in humans, in addition to negatively impacting water quality.

“We already have a significant algal bloom problem in San Joaquin County and that is because of warmer temperatures, less flows, too many water exports and incoming nitrate pollution,” she said.

The other reason fresh water flowing into the Delta isn’t “wasted” — and this should be the obvious one — is because without it, California’s entire fishing economy would collapse. That includes commercial and recreational.

“If you take away fresh water in your estuaries and don’t grow your fisheries, you lose fish in the ocean,” Barrigan-Parrilla said. “It’s a chain effect. Orcas in South Puget Sound (Washington) survive on Sacramento River salmon. Everything is tied together, and people are tied to these economies.”

Ah yes, people. Let’s not forget about people. The same Fresno-area politicians that push the “flushing water” myth tend to frame the fight over water as “people versus fish.”

As if the only “people” who matter in this debate are the farmers and farming interests they represent. What about the 500,000 residents of the Contra Costa Water District who depend on the Delta as their primary water source?