January Water Policy Update
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January Water Policy Updates

The California drought continues to highlight the precariousness of our fresh water supply for humans and wildlife. The results of the Fall Midwater Trawl are in (see graphic above)--even the U.S. Supreme Court may not be able to save the Delta smelt. Significant news of the new year for fresh water and the Bay-Delta Estuary follows:
U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Delta Smelt Decision
Last Monday the U.S. Supreme Court denied two related petitions filed on behalf of farmers and water districts. The California case was one of more than 400 whose rejections were made public Monday. The decision, issued without written explanation, lets stand a lower court ruling that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials has a duty to take "reasonable and prudent" measures to protect the Delta smelt, including restricting pumping and therefore water deliveries. Click here for more from L.A. Times, Fresno Bee, and SF Gate.

...but the Delta smelt may not survive the drought anyway...
The Fall Midwater Trawl results are in, and native fish species are plummeting under the strain of the drought. The CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife conducts an annual fall survey of 122 sites in the North Bay and Delta for a number of fish species. The results from last fall, depicted in the graphic above, were released at the end of last week. Only 9 Delta smelt--once the most abundant fish in the system--were counted in the survey. Delta smelt are considered a canary in the goldmine for adequate freshwater flows in the Estuary. This follows on the heels of 2013, "one of the worst years on record" for California fishes.

H.R. 291: Water for the 21st Century Act re-introduced
Last week U.S. Reps Napolitano, Garamendi, Capps, and Huffman joined 22 colleagues (including Honda, Lee, and Eshoo) in re-introducing H.R. 291. Senator Barbara Boxer re-introduced the Senate version as well. H.R. 291 would expand rebates and grants for water conservation and efficiency; support local investments in water recycling and improved groundwater management and storage; invest in research into water-saving technologies and desalination; and help local communities take steps to become better prepared for drought.

Other News

Finally, Sierra snowpack, California's natural "reservoir," is only 43% of normal for this time. Coupled with low reservoir levels and a dry forecast for the remainder of January, the outlook for drought relief looks poor. Better get back to those rain dances!

Next update will include news specific to your region. Happy New Year!

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