Environmental Policy News

California Drought Creates Need for Salinity Barrier

Faced with potentially insufficient water supplies to repel salinity in the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), in consultation with federal and state water and wildlife agencies, is moving to install an emergency, temporary rock barrier across a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta channel. The department has not used the strategy since the 1970s, but with California’s extreme drought stretching into a fourth year, state water managers are taking steps to protect drinking water supplies.

DWR seeks to install a single emergency salinity barrier across West False River in May 2015, at an estimated cost of $28 million, to be removed six months later in November. State and federal water and wildlife officials, working as a Real-Time Drought Operations Management Team, have determined that the barrier would help deter the tidal push of saltwater from San Francisco Bay into the central Delta. The barrier would be essentially a pile of basketball-size rocks across the 750-ft-wide channel that still allows limited water flow upstream and downstream, depending upon tides. DWR, operator of the State Water Project, is seeking multiple permits from various agencies to accelerate installation.

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