Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Touring the Delta

I went on a helicopter tour of the Delta yesterday.

Hidden behind I-5 with thousands of acres of waterways, islands, wildlife reserves and levees, the Delta is home to dozens of fish species, including the endangered Chinook Salmon, and a popular water recreational area for weekenders.

As the gateway to the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, the Delta is the hub of California's water supply system, supplying water to the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California farmers, and urban users. The health of the Delta is critical to the California economy.

In the past, the Delta irrigated 45% of the fruits and vegetables produced in the US. However, California is in the midst of a severe two-year drought due to below average rainfall and snow pack from the mountains. If conditions remain the same over the next few months, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will recommend mandatory rationing beginning this July.

Due to the shortage of water, there are over 464,000 acres going unplanted in California. In 2009, this will translate to a loss of 40,000 jobs in the San Joaquin Valley alone, and farmers have lost $300 million to date with an estimated $3 billion total economic loss by year’s end.

Our water supply system in California was built to serve 18 million people and currently serves more than 38 million people (with an estimated 40 million population by 2020). The levees at the Delta are over 100 years old and need to be seismically upgraded. We also need to ensure that California has a water supply fund moving forward.

We cannot wait any longer. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, I am focused on finding a multi-faceted solution to the very serious issues facing the Delta.