As this article in the Sacramento Bee reports, there are already water shortage issues and this has been a relatively normal rain year, only a few inches below the average, so the continuing question for public leadership is, when are we going to build new water storage, not if.
“In a sign of growing drought in California, state officials recently took the unusual step of loosening environmental water quality rules in hopes of protecting salmon in the Sacramento River.
“The move illustrates how drought forces difficult trade-offs in modern-day California, where water supplies are stretched to the limit even in normal years.
“The problem is that Shasta Lake, the largest in the state, risks running out of cold water before salmon migrate upriver from the ocean for their fall and winter spawning runs. If that were to happen, the salmon population, which has rebounded strongly from several years of sharp declines, could face lethal warm temperatures in the river.
“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Shasta Lake, has a duty under the Endangered Species Act to preserve a so-called “cold water pool” in the reservoir to protect spawning salmon in the Sacramento River.
“But, because of the unusually dry winter in California and Reclamation’s own operating laws, that cold water pool already has been rapidly depleted, raising concerns that 2013 could turn out to be another deadly year for salmon.
“So on May 29, the State Water Resources Control Board, which governs water rights in California, loosened certain water quality rules to help.
“One change allows Reclamation to meet a 56-degree temperature standard, crucial to salmon, at a location in the river in Anderson that is seven miles farther upstream from the usual location.
“That’s our best estimate of where we can maintain that temperature for the entire summer and into the fall,” said Ron Milligan, operations manager for Reclamation’s Central Valley Office. “We don’t have nearly the cold water pool in Shasta that we would typically like to see.”
“The change means Reclamation can release less cold water from Shasta Dam through the summer, allowing it to stretch its supply into fall. It also means about seven miles of potential spawning habitat probably will be too warm.”