By Peggy Freeman
The California Delta is over 1,000 miles of waterways that flow from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and merge into the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems and through San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. Channels that run their course of winding waterways interlock between rich vegetation, muddy sloughs and the mainland. The delta is rich in history and an ecological sanctuary surrounded by unparalleled beauty.
The California delta is important to the state because nearly two-thirds of California’s population and millions of acres in farmland receives water from the delta. Due to lack of rain, Southern California is largely dependent on the water that is imported from the region by the State of California. The water is then distributed by the world’s largest water broker, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). In 2008 MWD brokered water to 18 million people in the 5,200 square mile service area of Southern California from Ventura County to San Diego County. Today MWD continues to buy water that is pumped into aqueducts and distributed to various areas of the state to insure California receives the water they need. However that may not be the case in the near future as a history of factors has caused neglect, pollution, scarcity and fish endangerment.
The California gold rush of the 1800’s took place near the Sacramento River. The gold rush ushered in freight and passenger services as well as hydraulic mining systems to dig for gold. Unfortunately the prosperity associated with gold mining caused a problem as mining remitted sludge and debris into the waterways. To make matters worse there was flood in 1862 that spread the sludge far and wide across the delta. You may say that was a long time ago however commercialization that began in the 1800’s still has a profound effect on the water.
Since the 1800’s numerous levees were built to keep the salt water from the Pacific Ocean from merging into parts of the fresh water delta. Erecting levees changed the Delta’s intricate waterways to the most changed ecosystem inthe world. It is an ecosystem that is home to many migratory fish that use the delta as a highway between South America and Alaska. It is also the home of indigenous salmon, steelhead fish and delta smelt. However some native fish have declined in recent years to the point of possible extinction. It is believed the decline is partly due to the invasion of foreign sea life like the stripped sea bass, a predatory fish. An excess of non-native clams also contributes to the demise of indigenous fish in the delta. Endangerment affects commercial fishing prosperity, the food chain of sea life and the people who eat them. Conservation measures are now underway to repopulate the supply of fish and bring about balance. Another problem for the fish is the pumps used to excavate water from the delta.
Pumps that force water into pipes for Southern California use have been known to swallow fish as they get sucked into the system. Activists are alarmed by the rate of danger to the fish and protest the pumping. However it is vital for these pumps to transport fresh water into the San Joaquin Valley, San Francisco Bay and Southern California (So Cal). In addition, Central Valley farmers have been gravely affected by a lack of water in recent years of drought. State mandated water restrictions limit water use to farmers. Over the past three years they have received 50-65% less water while paying 100% of the water bill. Water restrictions are causing hardships on farmers and loss of jobs to workers. Water rationing from the delta poses another threat to crops and animals which is passed on the consumers. Poor quality of meat and vegetables could be distributed at higher prices.
Southern California has also experienced some rationing but in the near future we will be hardest hit in our pockets. The cost of water has increased and we will continue to see rises in prices as delta’s problems are being fixed. Yet the state is hopeful that under Governor Brown’s Delta Bay Conservation Plan diversion of water will come directly from the Sacramento River as opposed to the delta.
Yet the problems in the delta continue… Scientists have begun to take note of the possibility of a natural disaster that is likely to affect our water supply. The effects of global warming could also cause a decline of the fresh water supply as water becomes saltier and more scare. If an earthquake occurs for example, worn levees that divert the natural flow of water run the risk of failing and flooding nearby towns and diminishing the water supply. Just like what happened in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. In addition fixing the levees is expensive but necessary and in the long run and Californians will pay the costs.
While many of the perils of the delta are blamed on export of water to Southern California, strict regulations must exist to stop commercial dumping and vessels from discharging pollutants into the water.
Peggy Freeman is an Inventor, Journalist, Creative Writer, Publisher and CEO of Write Now Publishing Company. She is currently writing two books, Adding Super to your Natural and Business Minded.