Ever made the mistake of saying, \u201cThings can\u2019t get worse?\u201d I\u2019ve eaten those calorie-consuming words on more than one occasion. I was chewing over one of those cold bites last week while editing a story about the Sacramento Municipal Utility District\u2019s rant in response to a State Water Resources Control Board\u2019s study. The state is starting (again) to revise limits on flows into the San Francisco Bay Delta. SMUD\u2019s board responded that the state water agency\u2019s supposed proposed restrictions on river flows feeding into the Delta would severely diminish hydropower supplies (Current, Feb. 10, 2012). I flashed back to munching on an appetizer while conversing with Department of Interior deputy secretary David Hayes at a cocktail party in Washington, D.C. We briefly discussed renewable projects on public lands in California, but he switched from chewing shrimp to talking smelt, noting he was principally tangled up in the on-going Bay Delta dilemma. Not only am I an energy nerd, I\u2019m also a water wonk. As a lawyer and journalist, I covered water issues in the 1990s. Once I got caught in the crosshairs of a large agricultural water agency who tried to stop a magazine article I wrote on the topic from being published. \u201cThings couldn\u2019t get worse,\u201d I told Hayes after another sip of wine. He corrected me, noting things have gotten worse, so much so that he spends about 80 percent of his time trying to limit deaths in the Delta to select fish species. Water exports from the Delta have been highly contentious for decades, particularly given the state\u2019s swings between droughts and floods. The amount and timing of flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers feeding into the Delta impact fish, irrigation, drinking water, and hydropower. Reductions in Delta outflow and increases in water exports are considered a key reason several native fish species have crashed. The Bay Delta is the heart of the state\u2019s massive water supply project. The state project exports huge quantities of fresh water to farms and cities in Central and Southern California. It houses huge federal water pumps. There are several hydropower projects on the rivers that flow into the Bay Delta, including ones owned by SMUD, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, the Department of Water Resources, Northern California Power Agency, and others. At the same time, the Delta is the largest estuary and wetland area on the West Coast of the Americas, and its home to several struggling native fish species. SMUD\u2019s concerns over the Water Board\u2019s Delta flow proposals were laid out in a late January letter co-signed by other public utilities and water contractors. It claims that an updated scientific analysis the Water Board issued on levels of flows likely needed to protect the little delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, Chinook salmon, and other species would slash hydropower flows by 30 percent on average. In the summertime, it could lead to a 70 percent power loss in critical periods, \u201cpotentially undermining the state grid,\u201d it asserts. As I read the letter, I was reminded of the hysteria surrounding Bay Delta flow issues but knew to take a closer look. The water industry includes a number of volatile and very vocal stakeholders--making energy stakeholders seem reasonable. Pages and conversations later, I still couldn\u2019t get worked up about the water suppliers\u2019 claims. \u201cIt is very lopsided,\u201d Les Grober, Water Board assistant director for water rights, admitted of the recently revised flow criteria. He added that a 2009 law required the board to develop updated scientific flow criteria that focused on restoring fish and other native aquatic critters under what is known as the \u201cpublic trust\u201d doctrine. Prior to the enactment of a package of bills, the Legislature concluded the Delta was \u201cin crisis.\u201d Grober did note that SMUD et al.\u2019s viewfinder was dialed on the \u201cworst case scenario.\u201d He declined to guess as to what kind of flow restrictions new standards may set. The Water Board concluded that the current flows are \u201cinsufficient\u201d to sustain fish. The board\u2019s flow criteria detailed in a 190-page document include an analysis stating that up to a 75 percent reduction in diversion of water feeding the Delta likely is needed to stabilize dwindling species. Very few expect that reduction level because it is an unrealistic scenario that would lead to severe water supply and hydro impacts. In addition, state law requires the balancing of competing uses. According to the Water Board\u2019s report, many hydropower \u201cprojects are upstream of major dams and reservoirs in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watershed so operational changes would have little or no direct effect upon Delta flows.\u201d That report was sent to the council charged with developing a long-term comprehensive management plan for the Delta. The munis and water contractors also urged the Water Board to delay the newly announced launch of its flow update for the Sacramento River. The setting of standards via water rights proceedings, which follow development of a Delta water quality plan, are chronic. This latest round attempts to update standards set in 2006. There are more pieces to this issue, including the federal government\u2019s efforts to protect endangered species and set rules for what are known as \u201ctake\u201d limits of listed species. Things continue to get worse. Tradeoffs between water, agriculture, fisheries, and electricity go back to before the days of Mark Twain\u2019s stay here. Pass me the bottled water and shrimp.