Orange County Branch Newsletter

May 2011

Branch News - April Luncheon

The State Water Project with MWD’s Randal Neudeck

Southern California receives its raw water from basically three different sources-the Delta where water is moved across it through the State Water Project aqueduct, the Colorado River, and from local groundwater replenishment.  The hub of California’s water is the Bay-Delta where Southern California receives thirty-percent of its water source.  Randall Neudeck, the Bay-Delta Imported Water Supply Program Manager for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, was the guest speaker at our April luncheon. He represents MWD on water quality, water supply and environmental issues related to Southern California's imported water supply from the San Francisco Bay-Delta watershed.  

We are all familiar with the pattern-the California drought can be “over” one year but then we can be back to drought conditions in the next couple of years for the following few years. The Sierra snow pack can be one of the biggest on record yet the thirst for water by Southern California to feed our landscaping and swimming pools can put a large demand on our water sources. Our water reserves in 2009 dipped alarmingly low but with the rains and snow pack this past winter, they can be up again to a comfortable level but we will have to see how long this lasts. Our conservation efforts and the changing of our water use habits may help us through the next drought.

The Delta has experienced a declining ecosystem that is caused by a number of factors.  This has led to historic restrictions in water supply deliveries resulting in a pressing need to improve both the Delta environment and the water systems that help sustain California’s economy. On August 31, 2007, a Federal judge protected the Delta Smelt by severely curtailing human use water deliveries from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta from December to June.  This affected operations of the Banks Pumping plant that sends water through the California Aqueduct to Central and Southern California for agricultural and residential use. Allegations have been made that this protection has hurt California's agricultural sector, with devastation to hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the California’s Central Valley.  Fifty percent of U.S. fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown in California. 

The cause of Statewide Water problems is the Delta Smelt, a smallendangered slender-bodied fish about 2 to3 inches long, that are native to the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary.  They inhabit the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary and their spawning season takes place during March until May, after which they die.  With only a one-year life cycle and a low ability to reproduce, the delta smelt are very susceptible to changes in environmental conditions of its native habitat. The endangered fish is being protected from further decline and efforts have focused on limiting or modifying the large-scale pumping activities of state and federal water projects at the southern end of the estuary.Models in real time data have been set up to detect Delta Smelt.  It has been found that the smelt likes to follow turbidity and pumps must be stopped when Delta Smelt are near. 

Undoubtedly, new levees are urged for the Delta. The integrity of the levees has been a major concern for many years and key risks are earthquake and subsidence.  But the system needs to meet future demand increases.  Currently, conservation, recycling, desalination and groundwater combined provide 1.1 M acre-ft per year for California.

Near Term Measures for the State Water Project include measures for emergency response, operations, habitat restoration, and other stressors. The Central Valley/State Water Project Intertie Project was briefly discussed as well as an overview of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan with its Multi-Species approach.  Finally Conveyance Alignment Options were presented where it is possible for a new intake at the northern point of the Delta where the fish are not located.  The Delta tunnel would require a 37 ft diameter tunnel to carry 15,000 CFS requiring one of the largest tunnel boring machines in the world. The project began in 2010 and is scheduled to be on-line in 2022.

Near Term Habitat Restoration Implementation would involve restoration of a total of 80,000 acres which includes tidal marsh, seasonal floodplain, and riparian habitat.  Governor Brown have to make a decision regarding an EIR.  

Southern California continues to face significant water supply challenges and it’s critical that residents and businesses continue to conserve water. Thanks to these efforts and Southern Californians’ commitment to water conservation, the region’s water reserves have improved.  The MWD, serving counties from Ventura to San Diego, continues its efforts to reach out to the public.

For more information,  you can visit their website.

This month’s luncheon, attended by thirty-eight (38), was the second OC Branch event at the UCI University Club location. We hope to see you all at the May luncheon with APWA

Here is a video of the presentation that was given: