Editor’s note: Reporter Don Wright covers water issues for various publications in California.
To help inform people on how the San Joaquin Valley gets water and what challenges are currently being faced, a Delta Water Summit will be held at California State University, Fresno’s Satellite Student Union beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.
So far, 2013 has the dubious distinction of being the driest year on record. This is placing particular stress on the naturally dry San Joaquin Valley. It’s not complicated — the major industry here is agriculture and water is vital to growing crops and livestock. What is complicated is how the Valley and much of the rest of the state receives its water supplies.
California has a truly incredible water infrastructure designed to supply the state with this precious resource. Two-thirds of California’s water originates north of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta and two-thirds of the use takes place south of the Delta and that’s where the problem lies. Environmental interests have repeatedly used the court system to block deliveries through the two major pumping plants located near Tracy, the state’s Banks Pumping plant and the federal Jones Pumping Plant. Citing concerns over species such as the Delta smelt and salmon, pumping has been curtailed in some cases by more than 70 percent, in turn causing widespread economic hardship for Valley growers and ag-dependent businesses.
Delta water is pumped from the Banks plant to the California Aqueduct and Jones pumps into the Delta Mendota Canal. Both of these in turn fill the San Luis Reservoir west of Los Banos. The state’s share of the water then continues south down the aqueduct to supply portions of Kern County and then over the mountains to the Los Angeles basin. The Delta Mendota Canal continues south also, supplying the Valley’s west side agricultural needs...