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California Builds Emergency Barrier In Drought To Protect Water Supplies

California Department of Water Resources

Rock removal from a barge in the West False River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to construct the 750-foot-wide rock barrier to help deter saltwater from San Francisco Bay into the central Delta. Photo taken May 8, 2015

California Department of Water Resources

In a normal year, fresh water flowing from rivers into the Delta pushes back tidal ocean water. In this fourth year of drought, not enough water is flowing down river.

Doug Carlson, with the Department of Water Resources, says constructing the 750-foot wide temporary rock barrier across a channel in the Delta will prevent salt water contamination.

“If it were to be contaminated with a lot of saltwater then it would take maybe more water than we have in upstream reservoirs now to flush it out,” says Carlson.

0525AQ_SALINITYp2Map of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta showing location of rock barrier. -California Department of Water Resources.

That would also make it difficult to export water south to cities and farms. But there are trade-offs with the $28 million project.

Not only will it affect boaters this summer, some worry it could harm fish. It’s something DWR hasn’t resorted to since the 1970’s. The barrier will be removed in November.