Tidal marsh or ‘fake habitat’? California environmental project draws criticism
California is a patchwork of ecosystems, each one distinct from the next. Along the state’s coast, there are deserts of marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats and a multitude of estuaries, mangroves, grasslands and chaparral.
But for most of its history, the coast wasn’t just a place of isolation and wilderness but also the main source of water for much of the state, as well as for agriculture. For that was crucial. Farmers relied on reliable water as their most important resource in the California Central Valley.
“If you’re a California farmer, water is like gold,” says David Goulian, vice president of the California Water Service District, which provides water and sewage services to the nine counties that border the Pacific Ocean.
The state’s water supply has steadily improved in recent decades, but its quality in some areas lags far behind: The state’s five leading sources of fresh water all had their combined water quality status declined by one or more levels, according to new data from the California Department of Water Resources.
The decline in the state’s overall water quality is partly due to agricultural runoff, and partly because of the state’s reliance on a single water source that’s shared statewide – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta is one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the world, with up to 25 percent of its water supply coming from the California Current, which is fed by three tributaries that originate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
And those fresh water supplies are dwindling. The state’s five major sources of fresh water all have their combined water quality status declined one or more levels, according to new data from the California Department of Water Resources.
“It’s going to take decades for those five water resources to recover,” says Michael Zucchino, a professor of biology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “The only hope of really seeing real improvement in water quality is to build an aqueduct to bring water in from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a large wetland system with trees and vegetation to capture all the runoff that goes into the Pacific Ocean.”