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Environment & Science

Canal flows 'backward' in California drought




The exposed dam wall and water intakes of the San Luis reservoir which is at only 21 percent capacity as a severe drought continues to affect California on September 23, 2014.  California is in the grip of its third year of severe drought, the worst in decades, threatening to drain underground aquifers and leaving the taps of some 40 million people to run dry. The state's drought affected Central Valley, is the  considered the richest food-producing region in the world, where much of America's fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables being grown there.            AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON        (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
The exposed dam wall and water intakes of the San Luis reservoir which is at only 21 percent capacity as a severe drought continues to affect California on September 23, 2014. California is in the grip of its third year of severe drought, the worst in decades, threatening to drain underground aquifers and leaving the taps of some 40 million people to run dry. The state's drought affected Central Valley, is the considered the richest food-producing region in the world, where much of America's fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables being grown there. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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In another bizarre turn of events due to California’s drought, a canal that feeds the San Luis Reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley now flows 'backward' for the first time in its 64-year history.

If you've ever driven up the 5 Freeway to Northern California, you've passed by the 117-mile channel called the Delta-Mendota Canal. It normally flows from north to south.

But due to cuts in pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and Lake Shasta — because of tightened water-use restrictions and regulations that protect Chinook salmon — farms and communities that use water from the canal as it flows downstream are now being forced to pump water back upstream, north from the San Luis Reservoir.

How do you change the direction of a stream of water?

Ara Azhderian is the water policy administrator for the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority. "It's energy and pumps. Rather than the water flowing downhill, we have to lift it up and push it uphill," he said. "It's crazy. It's just crazy."

Azhderian estimates the operation could cost approximately $2.5 million by summer's end. The San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority hopes to receive financial assistance from state and federal agencies to help cover the cost.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the blue audio player above.