By Emily Turner

LODI, San Joaquin County (KPIX 5) – These yellow fields have become the battleground for something blue and valuable: Water.

Several Delta islands are ground zero of California’s water wars. Melvin Love, who lives on the Delta, are among those who are worried.

“That tree line over there is salt water. And you suck more fresh water out, the salt water is coming this way,” Love told KPIX 5.

The Metropolitan Water District in Southern California is moving forward with a plan to buy the islands in the Delta.

Islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that could be purchased by the Southern California-based Metropolitan Water District. (CBS)

Islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that could be purchased by the Southern California-based Metropolitan Water District. (CBS)

The company has said it plans to use them for restorative environmental work, but why would a Southern California water company care about a few islands of farmland almost 400 miles away?

“The islands, which they are interested in purchasing, are in the direct path of the Delta Tunnels Project,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “They are moving ahead to purchase those islands, which could become a staging area for the project even before state and federal permitting is completed.”

If passed, that plan would send thousands of gallons of Sacramento River water to Southern California taps, but five local counties already depend on the Delta for drinking water.

Both locals and preservationists worry pumping more out will destroy the habitat, it’s an estuary for many endangered fish, a stopover for migrating birds, and a future for Melvin Love’s family.

“I just found out I was going to be a grandad not too long ago,” Love said. “And I want to be able to have my grandson on fresh water, where he can jump in the water and actually open his eyes and see what we have here. It’s a gem.”

The deal would likely take one year to complete.

KPIX 5’s requests for comment from the Metropolitan Water District have not been returned as of Wednesday evening.

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