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The populations of five fish species found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta continue posting near-record lows, The Sacramento Bee reported today.

That’s bad news for San Diego, which turns to the delta for much of its drinking-water supply. As the snowfall in the Sierra Nevada melts, it flows through the delta and is pumped hundreds of miles south to Southern California. Last year, a federal judge reduced the amount of water that could be pumped from the delta because of the pumps’ impact on an endangered fish, the delta smelt.

The more fish species that encounter troubles in the delta, the less likely San Diego is be able to count on the delta as a viable water source.

The Bee’s Matt Weiser reports:

Five Delta fish species continue marching toward extinction, according to new data released Wednesday, a result that some observers warn may signify a major ecological shift in the West Coast’s largest estuary.

The data come from an annual fall survey for fish that live in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the 740,000- acre estuary that also is the primary diversion point for drinking water enjoyed by 25 million Californians. For four months each fall since 1967, California Fish and Game officials have used trawl nets in an effort to estimate the Delta’s fish population.

The product of that survey for 2007, released Wednesday, shows record-low numbers for three species: longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail and American shad. Two others, Delta smelt and striped bass, posted near-record lows.

ROB DAVIS

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