California water standards require minimum-outflow standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for the protection of species such as the delta smelt and longfin smelt. Via Aquafornia, the Sacramento Bee reports that officials have violated these standards in order to ensure the health of salmon upstream of the delta:
The drought, in other words, posed a tough choice between fish species.
The agencies acted after consulting with wildlife officials, he said, who agreed that saving water for salmon runs was a prudent step.
Johns said they couldn't wait for the water board's lengthy review process. As a result, he said, they retained about 100,000 acre-feet of water in state and federal reservoirs.
"Technically, we did not actually meet the number of days in February that's called for by the board," [a California Department of Water Resources official] said. "We took what actions we thought were the best overall mix to better protect fish."
If you're a farmer in California's Central Valley, it's news like this that makes you wonder. On the one hand, you're told that the amount of water you receive is restricted in part due to required protection for the delta smelt. On the other hand, California water officials are restricting the amount of flow into the delta, making the recovery of the delta smelt species and the needed lifting of water export restrictions that much less likely. In other words, the order of priorities for the allocation of water seems to be 1) salmon, 2) delta fish species, 3) farmers.