Regional San has been actively engaged in efforts aimed at solving the serious issues facing the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. A variety of potential solutions to the Delta’s problems have been proposed, most of which aim to produce a Delta that simultaneously supports a vibrant ecosystem and continues to supply fresh water to large parts of the state.
As these solutions evolve, Regional San will continue to contribute to the ongoing Delta dialogue with the aim of supporting policy decisions that produce measurable and cost-effective benefits for the Delta ecosystem.
Delta in Decline
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an important economic and environmental resource that benefits virtually all of California. The Delta provides agricultural and municipal water for two-thirds of the State’s population. It’s also a unique ecosystem that provides crucial habitat for important species and attractive destinations for recreational users. But today, there is no question the Delta is in peril, as 1,100 miles of levees are aging and deteriorating, water supply and reliability are in jeopardy and native species are declining.
While multiple “stressors” are thought to be responsible for the Delta’s problems, the science is not conclusively settled as to what is contributing most to the Delta’s decline. Many stressors have been shown to have a direct impact on Delta. For decades, it has been well-known that water projects that send Delta water to other parts of the state have caused negative impacts to Delta fish species.
In August 2010, the State Water Resources Control Board developed a report on how much water the Delta environment needs to thrive. The report determined that reducing the amount of water pumped out of the Delta would improve the Delta ecosystem by protecting threatened fish species like the delta smelt. Currently, the Water Board is developing flow criteria for the Delta.
Other types of stressors that may be contributing to fish declines include invasive species (such as clams and plants), predation, and food limitation. Scientific research conducted by many organizations is providing information on these multiple stressors to the Delta ecosystem to help make management and policy decisions that will benefit the Delta.
Regional San’s Discharge
In recent years, Sacramento’s wastewater discharge to the Sacramento River—specifically the ammonia it contains—has been looked at as a potential contributor to Delta decline downstream. As a result, regulators at the State’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board decided in 2010 to impose strict new ammonia discharge rules that require substantial—and costly—upgrades to Regional San’s treatment plant. These upgrades are now being implemented as part of Regional San’s landmark EchoWater Project.
Shaping the Future
The Sacramento region must work together to inform policy decisions that will dictate how the Delta region, and its water, is utilized. By nature of our proximity to the Delta and interdependence of water resources, Sacramento—its water supply, land uses, wastewater and stormwater operations, flood protection and economic health—will be impacted by policies aimed at solving the issues facing the Delta and securing water for other parts of the state.
The Sacramento region, through Regional San’s ratepayers, is already making a huge investment in safeguarding the Delta’s health through construction of the EchoWater Project. This project alone is estimated to cost between $1.5-2.1 billion. When it becomes operational, EchoWater will produce cleaner discharge that will contribute to improved water quality in the Sacramento River.
Sacramento ratepayers and community leaders must stay informed and engaged as Delta policies, programs and projects evolve in the coming years. Regional collaboration and engagement will help us meet the following goals:
Ensuring Sacramento does not bear unfair and disproportionate impacts as new Delta policies are considered.
Securing additional funding to help offset the impacts of Regional San’s stricter discharge permit and the pending construction of the EchoWater Project. Working to create and secure funding for sustainable water management practices throughout the region, such as Regional San’s South County Ag Water Recycling Program.
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