The Loma Prietan - November/December 2011

Save Water, Save Fish, Save Our Delta

by Deirdre Des Jardins

Probably you’ve heard the alarming news about the Sacramento Delta and its endangered fish populations that bespeak an endangered ecosystem. What many people don’t realize is that we in the South Bay have direct ties to the waters of the Delta, and that we as individuals and Chapter members can help reduce the threat to the Delta.

Did you know that San Jose imports water from the Delta, enough for 200,000 households? The water is pumped from the gigantic state and federal water project pumping stations near Tracy down to the San Luis Reservoir, which is shared with farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) is the wholesale agency that takes water from the San Luis Reservoir, as well as local rivers, and sells it to the municipal water agencies for the cities of the South Bay. Growing demand by the SCVWD, as well the huge urban water districts in Southern California, led to an increase in water exports from the Delta over the past decade - almost an extra million acre feet a year.

This increase in water exports, with no reduction in use by agricultural users, led to the collapse of the Delta ecosystem in 2002. A series of legal battles followed over restricting water exports to protect endangered fish populations. Facing a growing population and potentially reduced supplies, California’s water districts have placed increasing importance on water conservation and reuse.

Many cities have made the commitment, at least in principle, to achieve the statewide mandate of a 20% reduction in water use by 2020. Since urban water districts now use almost 40% of Delta exports, urban conservation is extremely important. The Chapter’s Water Committee has critiqued urban water management plans of individual cities in the South Bay, advocating for adoption of best practices.

The San Francisco Peninsula also uses water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the Tuolumne River, and Alameda County uses water from the Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne. These rivers are also stressed by increased water diversions, and will be helped by conservation.

Deirdre Des Jardins is a member of the Sierra Club California Water Committee.