From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published September 1, 2007 05:04 PM

California Limits Water Supply To Protect Endangered Animals

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A U.S. District Court has ordered a massive reduction in water supplies from the state's two largest water delivery systems to protect an endangered fish species, the Delta smelt.


The reduction is anticipated to last while federal agencies develop a revised federal biological opinion for Delta smelt that will ensure the projects' compliance with Endangered Species Act requirements.


The State Water Contractors, comprised of 27 public water agencies in Northern, Central and Southern California, reacted negatively to the largest court-ordered water supply reduction in California history, fearing problems for farms, businesses and people.


"Today's ruling is an unprecedented cutback in our statewide water supply, forcing local water agencies to scramble to identify back up water sources and find ways to lessen direct impacts on their customers," said Laura King Moon. "Never, in California's history, have we had a court impose such a massive reduction in the water use - and it is not clear that even this extraordinary action will save the Delta smelt given all the other threats to its existence."


Local water agencies will have to rely on contingency and emergency sources of water, including local groundwater and storage supplies, to lessen direct impacts on their customers. However, by doing so, they say they will exhaust or significantly limit supplies that would be needed for a drought or major catastrophe, such as an earthquake, major flood event, etc. Local agencies are particularly concerned about depleting their back up reserves during the current drought - 2007 is the driest year on record for parts of California.


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This significant reduction in water supply will be experienced in the Bay Area, Central and Southern California.


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