By now, most Californians have probably heard that a huge geologic formation known as the Monterey Shale contains oil and natural gas in Saudi Arabian-style quantities, locked up in underground rocks lacing an area extending more than 100 miles along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and beyond.
Getting that oil out would require hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, a process involving high-pressure underground injection of water and chemicals. No one has yet said publicly how much water it would take to exploit the oil and gas in quantities large enough to make America energy independent.
No one also knows whether this might damage underground water tables. But there is no doubt oil drilling companies would need a reliable source of water before they invest heavily in the Monterey Shale, which one USC study claimed could produce as many as 500,000 new California jobs.
Enter the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which includes two parallel 35-mile-long freeway-width tunnels to bring Sacramento River water under the Delta formed by that river and the San Joaquin. This region now supplies much of the water used by California’s largest cities and farms...