Securing SoCal Water to Benefit NorCal Salmon

Hakai Magazine –

Life is perilous for juvenile chinook salmon just starting their journey to the ocean: predatory striped bass lurk in gin-clear pools; low streamflows limit access to the shrimplike amphipods they feed on; downstream sloughs halt at dead ends. As young fish navigate from spawning grounds in California’s Feather River to the Pacific, climate change is further reducing the water available for their celebrated runs. Of the salmon populations struggling to survive along the Pacific Northwest, scientists worry California chinook may be the first to blink out.

Just as the Feather River salmon seem doomed, along comes a scheme that would be cockamamie if it weren’t so practical: a water-management project in Southern California that won’t divert water from a river, won’t involve new dams, and promises enhanced streamflow for the beleaguered Feather River salmon 780 kilometers away.

The key piece of this scheme, known as the Chino Basin Program, is a new recycled water treatment facility that should soon be built 60 kilometers east of Los Angeles, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The inspiration of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), a regional wastewater treatment agency that distributes water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River to 875,000 residents in the southern county of San Bernardino, the facility will treat 18.5 million cubic meters of recycled water per year and store it underground.

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