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State Official: Fixing Delta Water System Is Top Priority

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Aired 7/13/09

The continuing drought and court-imposed restrictions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have significantly reduced San Diego's water supply, and there's no indication the situation will improve. A growing number of elected officials and water managers say the restrictions underscore the need for a new, comprehensive plan to keep the water flowing.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
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Above: Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

— The continuing drought and court-imposed restrictions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have significantly reduced San Diego's water supply, and there's no indication the situation will improve. A growing number of elected officials and water managers say the restrictions underscore the need for a new, comprehensive plan to keep the water flowing.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has released a report on the biological effects of state and federal water projects in California's Bay Delta.

The agency found that the only way to avoid the extinction of critical species -- like salmon, steelhead and sturgeon -- is to impose tighter pumping restrictions next spring.

The fisheries service says changes will also be needed to the long-term plan for management of the Delta water system.

California Natural Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman agrees.

"We are in a better position today to make the important critical very difficult decision for the long-term water supply reliability and ecosystem protection that needs to happen in the Delta than we ever have been," Chrisman says.

He says the state must begin work on a new plan for the Delta as soon as the budget crisis is resolved.

"We've got to make the decisions now because these are projects that are going to take a long time to come to fruition so we've got to get started on them," Chrisman says.

Chrisman says the federal government will likely help with financial and planning assistance to fix a river system that supplies 25 million Californians with drinking water.

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