Seeking to achieve the dual goals of ensuring a reliable water supply for the state while protecting the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem, California agencies have worked at cross-purposes at times, according to a new report from the National Research Council. The document is the NRC's third and final report on issues related to the Bay-Delta and its conservation plan.
California's delta region receives fresh water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries, which ultimately flow into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
The report, "Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta," released on March 29, concluded that recent efforts have been ineffective in meeting these two goals.
"The need for integrated, comprehensive planning, both in the delta and statewide, is paramount as planning to date has not yet met the delta and state needs," Henry Vaux, professor emeritus of resource economics at the University of California and one of the report's authors, told reporters.
The report further concluded that climate change and a growing population will make water scarcer in coming years. Failure to acknowledge this problem and develop plans and policies that address water scarcity for all needs has made delta water management more difficult than it needs to be, Vaux said.
Cindy Paulson, senior vice president at Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Brown and Caldwell and executive director of the California Urban Water Agencies, agrees that agencies sometimes work dysfunctionally. While the state board is developing criteria for how much flow is needed in the delta, the California Natural Resources Agency is spearheading the development of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
"It's unfortunate that those two efforts aren't in closer lockstep because the flow criteria could have a huge impact on BDCP and vice versa," says Paulson. The report is being closely read in California, she observes. "I think people are definitely looking at it," Paulson says.