The fish did it

Posted on | April 13, 2010 | 2 Comments

A vote by the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today all but assures that last year’s water delivery cuts of roughly 20% will continue through 2010. This was expected. One passable rain year does not a recovery make. The weird part of Met’s announcement is the belligerence, which puts responsibility for the “historic” prospect of continued rationing and price hikes on fish.

Roughly a third of Southern California’s water supply comes from the Northern California delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers meet near San Francisco. The once fecund rivers have been losing their salmon, trout and smelt as the winter snowmelt that feed their waters is diverted south.

As Met’s general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger has it in today’s announcement, “The historic pumping restrictions in the Delta because of endangered fish species are compromising the statewide water system’s ability to capture adequate supplies.”

Disregarding the repeated misuse of “historic,” did Met really imagine that it could destroy the venerable northern Californian salmon fishery with impunity?

Hard to say. The largest water wholesaler outside of the federal Bureau of Reclamation is a master of mixed messaging. Three years ago, the authority was arguing that the big new supply for Southern California would come out of conservation drives. Today’s announcement fashions conservation as a hardship dealt people by fish and fish-lovers.

When Kightlinger adds, “We will be living with one set of Delta restrictions or another until major improvements to the ecosystem and water system are under way,” he means that in November we’d better vote for an $11bn water bond backed by Met or suffer more indignities.

He may be right. But by “major improvement,” he does not necessarily mean finding adequate water for fish, but construction of a new water conveyance system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta to serve Southern California. There are compelling arguments that this is needed to protect existing water supplies from earthquakes and floods. But, to judge by its spending, another improvement dear to the Met board would be stripping fish of protection. Last October it approved spending up to $3.25m of rate payers’ money on lawyers to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over their call for the fish protections.

Elsewhere in the news, a team of USC consultants have concluded that the spate of water main bursts in Los Angeles last summer were indeed caused by pressure surges from a mandated two-day-a-week watering regime. Roughly half of the fresh water consumed in Southern California is used outdoors.


2 Responses to “The fish did it”

  1. David Zetland
    April 14th, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    Dead on. Met wants the PC and doesn’t care about fish. They lobbied in 1982, and they are again. Oh, and they do NOT address demand, as you point out with lawns…

    April 15th, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

    Metropolitan Water District of Southern California makes for a huge target and unquestionably many of their decisions respecting water do not satisfy everyone.

    I reside in Arizona where the “muscle” respecting water is with Salt River Project (SRP) and Central Az Project (CAP) which control virtually all the water serving Phoenix and Tucson the centers of our population. And I can assure you their decisions respecting water do not satisfy everyone either.

    There is one PLAYER that is virtually left out of all discussions respecting WATER and that is you and me and our degree of silence and meekness whenever WATER is the point of discussion. Though NOT easy WE can when WE are ready exert the rightful power and authority we have and make any modifications we want … so the question might be exactly what are we waiting for…?


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