While his most recent plan to ship water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is dressed up with years of reports, and while Brown’s peripheral canal has changed to a pair of peripheral tunnels, one thing remains the same from his first water project in 1982: His plan won’t add water to the state’s overall supply.
That’s a problem, because that is the real issue. There simply isn’t enough water in the Delta to fulfill demand and leave enough water to sustain some semblance of an ecosystem.
Part of the problem can be traced to when the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal — which ship Delta water to the Central Valley and Southern California — were built.
Contracts to south-of-the-Delta users were handed out with the idea that water would be shipped from the far northern reaches of the state to supplement the water sucked out of the Delta. But those northern rivers were proclaimed off-limits to water exports (and are, not surprisingly, the healthiest rivers in the state).
That left less water to hand out than the contracts called for, one of the reasons that even in a wet year like 2011, those who receive water from the Delta-Mendota Canal get less than 100 percent of their entitlements.
That puts a hefty strain on south valley farmers who have planted orchards or can’t water crops.
Still, the basic math hasn’t swayed some people, who say the only issue is that the pumps near Tracy feeding the aqueducts suck up an endangered fish.
If that were true, moving the intakes away from the fish — as the governor’s proposal envisions — would be a workable solution.
But the presence of those fish, and the environmental protection they enjoy, is one of the few things preventing the Delta from being sucked dry and San Joaquin County agriculture from suffering a body blow.
If the pipeline is built, the governor’s administration says protections would ensure that the north-of-the-Delta pumps wouldn’t run all the time and that standards for water flow in the Delta would be maintained. According to the Department of Water Resources, that would ensure the San Joaquin County portion of the Delta doesn’t dry up.
But it’s easy to imagine, in a drought “emergency” like the one in 2007 to 2009, that political heavy hitters who rely on pumped water would put pressure on the governor to lift those restrictions. In that case, it’s the folks and farmers in the Delta who would be left high and dry.
The only analysis that makes sense is that the peripheral tunnel idea would result in less water for the Delta and more water for users in the Central Valley and SoCal.
You don’t even have to follow the water to figure that out — all you have to do is follow the money.
The biggest backers of this plan are the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and irrigation districts along the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, all of whom take water pumped south out of the Delta.
The only reason for moving the intakes away from where the endangered fish live is so that more water can someday be pumped.
If that’s not the case, there seems little reason to build the pipes in the first place.
The problem isn’t an endangered fish. It’s basic supply and demand.
The governor’s pipeline plan won’t fix that fatal flaw.