Half-truths about California’s water system do not advance an informed public discussion. Communications that lack the proper context, omit details or distort data can lead to the wrong conclusion. The State Water Contractors launched the “Delta Deception” series to fill in the blanks with some ongoing discussions about California water supplies.
Today’s Delta Deception comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s August 10 blog, “Will California’s SWRCB Allow Delta Smelt To Go Extinct?” NRDC has requested that the State Water Resources Control Board adopt emergency regulations calling for dramatic increases in Delta outflows through September, water that is currently not required under any law or regulation and that would have to come from somewhere. In the blog, NRDC’s Kate Poole writes:
“Despite these urgent calls, the state Department of Water Resources (“DWR”)—an agency of the Natural Resources Agency—and the federal Bureau of Reclamation have utterly failed to provide the increased flows this summer, instead diverting the needed water to urban water agencies, like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, that claim they no longer need to conserve because their water situation is so improved, and agricultural users that are generating record revenues in the drought...”
Truth Be Told: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has never claimed that Southern Californians no longer need to conserve water, and water agencies throughout the state continue to prioritize conservation. As detailed by MWD’s general manager in June, continued conservation and lower per-capita water use is an important part of managing through this year and beyond. Mandatory rationing is not in place in any major urban area, north or south. That does not mean that conservation is no longer needed nor does it mean that conservation has ended.
The California Department of Water Resources estimates that approximately 500,000 acre-feet of additional outflow (more than 160 billion gallons) would be needed to meet NRDC’s request. That is about four times the amount of water that will be delivered this year to agriculture service contractors for the Central Valley Project (CVP) south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These CVP contractors are receiving 5 percent of their contracted water supplies in 2016 after receiving 0 percent last year due to another restriction intended to protect Delta smelt. Curtailing water to these and other farmers at the peak of the growing season would have real economic consequences.
In so many words, Poole is suggesting that billions of gallons of additional water can be sent to the Pacific Ocean if Southern Californians would start conserving and farmers make a little less money. That is deceiving.