|Zone 7 Water Agency has for the past five days been tapping into its emergency water supply after it was announced that the pumps supplying Pleasanton with water from the Delta were shut down.
The Delta pumps have been the subject of litigation since mid-April, when an Alameda County judge finalized an order to shut off the pumps in 60 days. The action came in response to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which filed a lawsuit that claimed the California Department of Water Resources wasn't complying with the state Endangered Species Act by not having the proper permits to kill smelt and salmon that pass through the pumps.
The Department of Water Resources, in a voluntary move, opted to shut down the pumps to protect the smelt, according to Boni Brewer, a spokeswoman for Zone 7. The department plans to curtail pumping for all regions in the state until the fish move away from the pumps. The department's action doesn't erase the lawsuit.
Zone 7 obtains 80 percent of its water from the Delta, specifically from the Harvey O. Banks pumping plant located near Tracy. Zone 7 is the wholesaler which provides water to nearly 200,000 people in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Dougherty Valley.
Zone 7 has, in response, been activating its groundwater well operations.
"If the shutdown lasts for seven to 10 days, as currently estimated by the Department of Water Resources, Zone 7 believes it will be able to operate without cutbacks," Brewer said.
The water agency is planning for the worst if the shutdown lasts longer.
In that case, the agency would draw water stored in Lake Del Valle and in the local underground water basin. It's also possible Zone 7 could be imposing conservation measures of residents.
"At this time, we're asking people to use water wisely," said Jill Duerig, general manager for Zone 7. "It only makes sense. It's a dry year anyway and with the uncertainties, it's only prudent to ask people to conserve."
As a result of relying more heavily on groundwater during the Delta pump outage, Duerig said the water will be harder, or contain more minerals, than usual.
"Drastic times call for drastic measures," said DWR Director Lester Snow. "While there are clearly many factors at play in the current decline of smelt in the Delta, we must act on the one that is within our control. That is why DWR will stop pumping in the Delta as a preventative measure to protect endangered fish that are currently located near our facilities."
The smelt began appearing at the Banks plant May 24 and have been increasing in numbers in recent days.
"This is another indication that the Delta is broken and needs to be fixed," Snow said. "Gov. Schwarzenegger time and again has said that we need to invest in our water systems, including more storage, conservation and a long-term strategy for the Delta."
Last year, Schwarzenegger appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to recommend future actions for the Delta. In addition, state and federal agencies and environmental groups signed a planning agreement last September and are developing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for at-risk fish species to provide a framework for future action. Zone 7 is among those participating in the effort.
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