The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has decided to improve water storage levels after an Executive Order from Governor Gavin Newsom. Pumping requirements in the Delta have been suspended, allowing more water to be stored for later use. The announcement was made right as California braced for another storm system to bring a sizable amount of rain and snow. Concerns had been raised during the previous atmospheric river events that the state was not taking advantage of the opportunity to store more water.
“It was really damaging this year when we were at flood stage throughout the state, and we were literally limping along in terms of pumping water out of the Delta and putting it in storage,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. “The good news is those restrictions are going to be relaxed. We’re going to be able to pump more water.”
SWRCB Executive Director, Eileen Sobeck noted in the order that the decision “will not have an unreasonable effect upon fish, wildlife, or other instream beneficial uses.” However, there are differing opinions as to how the action to improve water storage will actually impact fish populations. Golden State Salmon Association President John McManus was among those who disagrees with the decision. “Since Newsom’s announcement, water flowing out of the Delta has dropped by almost half. That water is needed to safely deliver this year’s baby salmon from the Central Valley to the ocean,” said McManus.
In the order allowing the SWRCB action, Newsom notes that even with the storms that have come through the state, it “has not reduced stresses upon the State’s water resources, including low storage levels, depleted aquifers, and diminished local water supplies.” Now with the pumping requirements lifted by SWRCB, California can effectively build up water storage supplies. “This is a good move. Especially at a time when you have excess water like we have right now. It will be interesting to see how long things stay this way. Can we capture a lot during the spring runoff?” Isom questioned.