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How Feds New Water Plan Could Affect Customers In SoCal




Water runs beside a lower-elevation farm (R) by a section of Highway 4 in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, west of Stockton, California.
Water runs beside a lower-elevation farm (R) by a section of Highway 4 in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, west of Stockton, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled new rules to govern California's scarce water, committing to send more to farmers in the Central Valley despite warnings from environmental groups that it would imperil endangered species in the fragile San Joaquin Delta.

The rules govern management of the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, two complex labyrinths of dams and canals that corral rain and snowmelt to provide water to more than 25 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland. An initial review by the National Marine Fisheries Services in July concluded the plan would threaten the existence of some endangered species, including winter-run chinook salmon, according to the Los Angeles Times. But the Trump administration never released that plan.

The report the government did release on Tuesday, known as a "biological opinion," said the plan "will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species," clearing the way for it to be implemented early next year. But it's likely environmental groups will sue to block it. The plan would give water agencies more flexibility on how much water they can pump out of the state's rivers. When it's raining a lot, agencies can pump more. When it’s dry, they would pump less.Also, the government said it would monitor the location of endangered fish species, including the delta smelt. If the fish are close to the pumps, the agencies would pump less to avoid sucking the fish in and killing them.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll explain what’s in the plan, what it means for farmers and wildlife in the San Joaquin Delta and find out how Metropolitan Water District customers here in SoCal could be affected.

With files from the Associated Press

Guests:

Lauren Sommer, reporter covering the environment, energy and water for KQED News in San Francisco; she tweets @lesommer

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager and chief executive officer for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; he tweets @8thGenCA