Water for smelt equals water supply for over 1 million homes

I stand corrected.

In the last edition I reported that 85,000 acre feet had already been held hostage behind the Delta pumps to protect a minnow.

Cannon Michael, the water watchdog for the family-owned Bowles Farming Company, Los Banos, Calif., kindly pointed out in an e-mail that I missed the mark by a mile. It is more like 300,000 acre feet that have been precluded from moving through the Delta and into the state and federal water projects delivering water to Central and Southern California since last Dec. 12. This is because of a federal district court judge’s ruling last fall protecting the Delta smelt.

The revised estimate came from Steve Chedester of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority in Los Banos who said the inflow into the San Luis Reservoir is now at a trickle. The outflow is rapidly drawing down the reservoir three months before the peak irrigation season begins.

That ups the ante to representing 300,000 California households. If you figure a household is four people who use an acre foot of water (326,000 gallons) per year, then schools of minnows have basically taken the water supply equal to what is used by the cities of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Riverside for one year.

Of course radical environmentalists do not want to put it in those terms. They’d rather put it in terms of water used by farmers. It always amazes me when farmers are criticized for using water. What do people think farmers are using water for; brushing their teeth or washing pickups? It is used in their business to produce food.

Let’s put 300,000 acre feet of water in true “farming” perspective — the production of food people like to eat. The 300,000 acre feet represent the water supply to irrigate 100,000 acres (assuming 3 acre feet of water per crop season). That is high for some crops listed below and low for others. However, allow me to use it for the following points.

Let’s translate 100,000 acres of food for the people of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Riverside and the judge and the people who love minnows. If that lost water was used to produce 10,000 acres of romaine lettuce, we’re talking roughly 168 million heads of lettuce; 10,000 acres of wheat would produce at least 60 million loaves of bread; and 10,000 acres of processing tomatoes would produce roughly 350,000 tons of tomatoes. I have no idea how many bottles of ketchup that represents. Probably enough to pour on all the McDonalds French fries sold in one year in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Riverside.

And that is only 30,000 of the 100,000 acres.

Okay, that may be a bit hyperbolic. However, the 37 or so million people who call California home, and politicians and judges who govern our state don’t seem to grasp what the state’s water crisis — compounded by flawed endangered species laws — is all about.

I love minnows. Without them there is no fish or fish bait. I am not advocating the demise of the defenseless Delta smelt. It is a critical part of the Delta’s ecosystem.

However, throttling back the pumps that deliver water to 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland is not the solution to the smelt’s demise. Those pumps account for what scientists say is less than 5 percent of the smelt losses.

What about the other 95 percent?

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