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New Rules Could Hurt San Diego Water Supply

Federal Agency Says Delta Imperils Several Fish Species

Audio

Aired 6/5/09

A federal study says California water supply systems are hurting the survival of several endangered fish species. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us that could lead to more water supply restrictions for San Diego.

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Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: Environment reporter Ed Joyce speaks with San Diego Week host Gloria Penner about a recent water summit and explains why water rationing may become a way of life.

Video
Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: KPBS reporter Sharon Heilbrunn asks whether we should be using so much water to grow grass in San Diego County.

A federal study says California water supply systems are hurting the survival of several endangered fish species. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us that could lead to more water supply restrictions for San Diego.

In an 800 page biological opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Service recommends changes to the way the state moves water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The agency says the water supply system keeps young fish trapped in the Delta.

The report says changes are needed so the fish can get to the ocean. Otherwise, they're subjected to pollution, predators and other factors that impairs their growth or kills them.

Kate Poole is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

She says the opinion is a significant step to restore fish species and fix the Delta.

"The Bay Delta ecosystem is in a serious decline," Poole says. "And that includes the salmon species and other fish species that rely on that ecosystem as well as the 25 million people in California who rely on that ecosystem for drinking water."

The fisheries service says its recommendations would reduce the Delta water supply 5 to 7 percent.

But California Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow says the department's initial estimates show the actions recommended could reduce supply by 10 percent a year.

He says that is in addition to current pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt and other species.

San Diego County Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis Cushman says the plan's full effect may not be felt until next year.

"This is bad news for California's water supply reliability and is another chink in the armor and another challenge that will be formidable for water agencies to overcome," Cushman says.

Cushman says the restrictions combined with a third year of drought make conservation critical.

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