Battle Looms as California Moves to Dedicate More Water to Fish

News deeply –

On the heels of the worst drought in California history, state officials are telling water users in the San Joaquin River basin to give up a major share of their water supplies – permanently.

The timing, in some ways, couldn’t be worse for farmers who struggled through the drought. On the other hand, the time is right for imperiled salmon that live in the river and its tributaries. This iconic species may not survive the next drought without more water.

The State Water Resources Control Board announced in September that it plans to return the San Joaquin River to 40 percent of its “unimpaired flow.” This means the amount of water that would naturally flow through the river without existing dams and diversions.

The goal, according to the water board, is to rebalance water demand on the state’s second-largest river. Policy and practice have long favored human water consumption over water quality and wildlife like Chinook salmon, a species in a steep decline for decades.

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