The interplay between human water use and natural systems has always been a ratchet, and when the environmental conversation began in earnest in this country, the ratchet was already cranked down tight.
By the time, for example, that we began having a conversation about preservation of environmental values on the Lower Colorado River, Hoover Dam was already in place and the Colorado River Delta was already getting very little of the water it once had.
Or take the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. California state law codifies the importance of “co-equal goals“: “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”
I can’t imagine UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle being terribly popular among water managers for pointing out this:
The reality is that the water priorities for people and fish and have never been anything approaching equal. The environment has always gotten the short end of the stick.
So achieving coequal goals should mean greatly improving conditions for fish, first, and then figuring out how to share the water better. It means we should give far greater consideration to native and other desirable species in the way we release water from dams and move it through the Delta.
Moyle’s got a lot to say about life in the anthropocene and thinking about “nature” and California’s great delta. Highly recommended click.