Interior Secretary's Response

Washington Reality Check: California's Water Crisis
From California's Bay Delta and the farms of the Central Valley to the fisheries of northern California and cities in the south, a third year of severe drought is affecting the lives of all Californians. This document aims to provide clear, accurate responses to questions about the state's water crisis so that Californians can make informed decisions about water use and help build a sustainable water future for themselves and their communities.

Rhetoric: "Regulatory Drought"
Q: Is it true, as some people claim, that water shortages and high unemployment rates in California's Central Valley are the result of a man-made, "regulatory" drought, as opposed to natural conditions?

A. Not true. California's water crisis is even more troubling than critics contend. The state is in its third year of a severe drought, caused by below average precipitation and significantly lower run-off into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. As a result, one-third less water is available to the 25 million Californians who depend on the Bay Delta for their drinking water and for the farms in the Central Valley that produce half of the nation's fruits and vegetables. Moreover, California's Bay Delta is in a state of full environmental collapse and the state's water infrastructure, built fifty years ago for a population half as large, can't handle the stress of the current crisis.

Rhetoric: "Turn On The Pumps"
Q. Some people are blaming the Obama Administration's efforts to conserve salmon populations and the delta smelt, a threatened fish, for water shortages in the Central Valley. They are asking the federal government to turn on water pumps that deliver water through the Bay Delta to Central Valley users, but which - to protect the Bay Delta and fish populations - were recently subject to temporary pumping restrictions. Why won't the Obama Administration turn the pumps on?

A. The pumps are on. The temporary pumping restrictions that were required under the Endangered Species Act ended on June 30th. They accounted for approximately one-quarter of 2009 water delivery shortages to farms and water users; the other three-quarters of this year's delivery shortage were the result of a lack of run-off.

Related Links:

For information about historic precipitation levels and the drought's causes check out the links below.

Bureau of Reclamation

California Department of Water Resources

To read about the challenges facing California's outdated water infrastructure and California's Bay Delta check out the link below.

CALFED Bay-Delta Program

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