Nevada City -- American Rivers today called for fundamental changes to the way water is managed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system to improve conditions for farms, fisheries and the environment, on the eve of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s visit to drought-stricken Fresno. The nation’s leading river conservation organization also pledged to support disaster-relief efforts to help Central Valley farming communities and coastal fishing families who have been impacted by the state’s water problems.
American Rivers recently expanded its operations in California to better address the critical challenges facing the state’s rivers and water supply.
“Outdated water management in the Delta has put our water supply, the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen, and the health of our environment in jeopardy,” said Steve Rothert, California regional director for American Rivers. “This crisis is exactly why we named the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system the nation’s #1 Most Endangered River for 2009. We need to overhaul the way we manage water so we can protect people, jobs, and the environment.”
American Rivers recommended the following short, mid, and long-term solutions to the current water crisis:
1) Disaster relief: American Rivers supports the disaster relief approved by the Obama administration for farming families and is calling for federal disaster relief for fishing families whose jobs have been lost as a result of recent fishing restrictions.
2) Water conservation and efficiency: Farms, cities and businesses must use the water we have more wisely. The state must implement water conservation and efficiency measures on a scale not yet attempted. Conservation and efficiency would save significant amounts of water, money, and energy.
3) Overhaul Delta water management: Water management decisions must meet the dual purposes of water supply and ecosystem recovery. We must scale back the reliance of municipal and agricultural interests on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the state must invest significantly in alternative water supply initiatives. Science-based processes like the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that are developing comprehensive solutions to meet multiple water needs must be given a chance to work.
“Now is not the time for rash measures that will further cripple this fragile river system, cause key wildlife to go extinct forever, and set us up for bigger crises down the road,” said Rothert. “American Rivers is committed to working with our partners to develop long term, durable solutions for water supply and river health.”
Much of the irrigation water for Central Valley crops comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A court recently ordered cutbacks in water pumping from the Delta to protect the critically endangered delta smelt and the overall health of the ecosystem, which is on the brink of collapse. California’s salmon fishery has been largely closed the past two years, resulting in economic losses of $270 million and nearly 2,700 lost jobs in 2009 alone.
American Rivers named the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system the nation’s #1 most endangered river on April 7 because of the threats that outdated water and flood management pose to people and the environment statewide. Learn more at www.AmericanRivers.org/endangeredrivers
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.