In an October 15th rant on Fox, Donald Trump chafed at the idea that water management, among other things, protects endangered fish
“California is going to have to ration water. You know why? Because they send millions of gallons of water out to sea, out to the Pacific, because they want to take care of certain little, tiny fish that aren’t doing very well without water,” Trump told Sean Hannity.
Trump accused California Democrats of establishing conservation policies to protect a small species of native fish called the Delta Smelt.
Someone told Trump of a 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal by opinion editor Alysia Finley. In that article, Finley questioned water pumping practices throughout the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta that protect the Delta Smelt.
The Delta (video) is a labyrinth of reshaped channels, tributaries, and dams that run down from the Sierras to provide water for cities and farms.
That human-made maze has also altered the life cycles of an array of native fish with different life histories and habitat needs, including steelhead and sturgeon. Only the smelt and winter-run Chinook salmon are officially listed as threatened
In the Bay, freshwater from California rivers mixes with saltwater from the Pacific Ocean. Along with tides, waves, and freshwater inflows comes sediment deposition and erosion, and concentrations of toxic substances that adsorb to sediment, quantity, and quality of habitat for fish and benthic organisms, and amount of light available for photosynthesis.
When Trump rants about sending millions of gallons of water out to sea, he is likely referring to conservation engineers’ ability to pump fresh water in a way that pushes the Bay’s salt tides back to the west, out of the Delta.
It’s a popular myth that this reflow process wastes water. But that notion ignores not just the estuary’s ecology, but the reality of the state’s water supply system.
Officials have not traditionally separated water needed to keep the Delta fresh from water required to protect smelt, salmon, and other fish. In water accounting, all have been lumped together as “environmental water.”