One way to measure water quantity is by the acre foot. Like in one acre foot of water is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre one foot deep. Dumb way to measure water.
Another way to describe an acre foot of water is that it is 326,000 gallons. A little better, but still for most people that much water is difficult to comprehend. How many swimming pools will that much water fill? According to all-knowing Google, there are 18,000 to 20,000 gallons of water in the average swimming pool. Therefore, an acre foot of water will fill about 16 large pools. Don't know that I have ever seen 16 pools in one place except by air and they look awfully small from an airplane to truly get an idea of how much water is an acre foot.
The measurement of water I like best is an acre foot of water equals the amount of water a household of four uses in a year. Not sure where that came from, but it has been around a long time in newspapers.
Assuming one family per one acre foot per year is accurate, let's put it into perspective using the 85,000 acre feet not delivered this winter through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect the minnow lovingly referred to as the Delta smelt. It is the fish that grows to three inches, lives about a year, and cannot swim its way away from the big pumps that move Northern California water to 3 million acres of farmland and 25 million Californians.
It is the same smelt that is eaten by bass introduced into the Delta by state game and fish officials. Same smelt that is minced through unscreened Delta irrigation pumps, and same smelt that tries to survive in sewage dumped into the Delta by cities, and in toxic chemicals illegally dumped into the same waterways. But those are other issues not germane to this commentary.
Most Californians would chortle at the 85,000 acre feet lost to the minnow so far. Farmers would just waste it anyway, they'd say.
Let's put the issue in a more neighborly perspective. Get it away from agriculture and put it in a Bay Area neighborhood or a Southern California subdivision perspective.
Let's say that 85,000 acre feet the federal district judge says was earmarked for fish was somehow specifically for residential customers.
Wonder what would happen if a state bureaucrat went through California neighborhoods, selected 85,000 homes, and went up to the door and said:
“Excuse me. Here is a picture of the endangered Delta smelt a judge has said Californians must save. We are cutting off your water supply for a month to save this fish. Thank you and have a nice day.”
Bet there would be more than a few black and white CHP cars following that state bureaucrat on his appointed rounds.
It will never come to that. Instead, the water did not get into storage and likely will not be delivered to farmers who grow food to feed the families in those 85,000 homes. However, no one will go hungry so no one will care that a minnow is entitled to 85,000 acre feet of water and Californians are not.