The Terra News

How climate change could threaten the water supply for millions of Californians

JUNE 30, 2017 4:00 AM


When it comes to California and climate change, the predictions are staggering: coastal airports besieged by floodwaters, entire beaches disappearing as sea levels rise.
Another disturbing scenario is brewing inland, in the sleepy backwaters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It’s a threat to the Delta’s ecosystem that could swallow up a significant portion of California’s water supply.
Scientists from government and academia say rising sea levels caused by climate change will bring more salt water into the Delta, the hub of California’s water-delivery network. As a result, millions of gallons of fresh water will have to be flushed through the Delta, and out into the ocean, to keep salinity from inundating the massive pumping stations near Tracy. That will leave less water available for San Joaquin Valley farmers and the 19 million Southern Californians and Bay Area residents who depend on Delta water – eventually as much as 475,000 acre-feet of water each year, enough to fill Folsom Lake halfway, according to one study by the Public Policy Institute of California.
“With rising sea levels, with climate change, that creates additional pressure coming in from the ocean,” said Michael Anderson, the state’s climatologist, in a recent interview. “Sea level rise is going to become more of an influence.”
It figures to become a pocketbook issue for practically any Californian who drinks water that runs through the Delta. A 2010 study by scientists from UC Davis said rising seas, coupled with the inundation of some islands in the western Delta, will translate into higher costs for purifying water for human use. The additional cost could go as high as $1 billion a year, “making the Delta less desirable as a conventional water source,” the study said.

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