For at least a decade, off and on, state water managers and local water agencies have pursued the holy grail of a master agreement to improve the environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by increasing its water flows.
At any given moment, California’s water supply is a zero sum game. Therefore, increasing flows through the Delta to improve habitat for salmon and other species would require local water agencies, particularly those serving farmers, to take less from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries.
That’s not only a hard sell, but also could interfere with water rights, some of which stretch back to the 19th century. State officials have hoped that so-called “voluntary agreements” would forestall direct action that could touch off a legal donnybrook over those rights.