The giant state and federal pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that funnel water to 25 million Californians should be shut down until certain Central Valley farmers retire hundreds of thousands of acres of chemical-laden farmland, according to a lawsuit filed today by a state water watchdog.

Irrigating agricultural land in the western San Joaquin Valley tainted with selenium, mercury, boron and other toxic substances constitutes an unreasonable use of a public resource protected by state laws and has contributed to the sharp decline of endangered fish species, said the California Water Impact Network.

“We think there is a simple solution to California’s water problems – to retire all of the drainage-impaired lands in the Central Valley. A second is water conservation – agriculture uses 80 percent of the developed surface water,” said Carolee Krieger, president and founder C-WIN.

The lawsuit marks the latest twist in the continuing Delta drama. The hub of the state’s 1,300-square-mile water system is also at the heart of the fight between uses for food and human needs, and those of wildlife and rare plants. In recent years, failure of the ecosystem forced legal rulings that curbed water exports – a move made more complicated this year by a drought and fears of another dry winter.

In the 27-page lawsuit filed in superior court in Sacramento , C-Win, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and an individual, Felix Smith, lays much of the blame for the system’s problem on water over-allocation. One culprit, the lawsuit said, is the State Water Resources Control Board, which issues all water permits in the state.

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