Keeping salinity in the Delta at bay during the drought

From the March issue of the San Francisco Estuary Partenrship’s ESTUARY News, this article written by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto:

Delta Feb 2013 #2 smaller“As the dry, warm days went on
 and on and on this winter, two guys intimate with California’s Sacramento San Joaquin River delta shifted gears. One reassigned staff from flood to drought response, and the other lay awake at night imagin
ing barriers across various slough openings. By early February, some Sierra reservoirs were so low, and
 so close to “dead pool” level, that the water projects stopped pumping and delivering. Farmers had to retrench, communities realized they might only have enough drinking water for the next six weeks, and any salmon that succeeded in spawning upstream had no water to carry them down. Things got scary. The water projects asked state regulators to let them off the hook in meeting various water quality standards, and the governor’s state of emergency put the Endangered Species Act on stand by.

While the pundits focused on skin deep polarizations – in which economy, food supply and farmers trump endangered fish – those with a deeper understanding of California water supply issues were worrying about something else altogether: keeping the salt field at bay. “Salinity is the central management challenge during a drought,” says Jon Burau, a senior hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “People don’t realize how much water we ‘spend’ repelling salinity intrusion to maintain water deliveries.” … ”

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