Delta Tunnel Alternative: Embracing Flooding for Water Supply

WHEN CALIFORNIA OFFICIALS got serious about building two giant tunnels to divert freshwater out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, it didn’t take critics long to propose alternatives. One of the first was a grassroots scheme that, at first, seemed radical and counterintuitive: Let winter floods retake vast parts of the San Joaquin Valley – the very farmland that needs those Delta water diversions. The floods would recharge depleted groundwater that could then be used to irrigate the farms, preventing the need for Delta water exports. The idea came in 2007 from Tom Zuckerman, then an attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency, one of many groups still battling the tunnel project. Zuckerman drafted it in the form of a 26-page “white paper” that he presented to the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, a panel appointed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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