California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
If you live in California, chances are that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta matters to you. It’s the hub for California’s water supply. Two-thirds of Californians get their water from the vast inland Delta, which lies east of San Francisco Bay, at the confluence of California’s two largest rivers, the Sacramento and San Joaquin. The water reaches cities from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and supplies millions of acres of Central Valley farmland through sprawling infrastructure projects built over the past century.
But the Delta’s natural ecosystem has declined and it’s become ground zero for the state’s most contentious battles over water and endangered species.
The Delta is home to a number of threatened or endangered species, including Delta smelt and Chinook salmon. Biologists point to a number of reasons for their decline. After the gold rush, farms replaced what was once a rich network of tidal wetlands. About 95 percent of the Delta’s historic habitat has been lost. Upstream dams have altered the rivers’ flow, and fish die when they’re drawn toward the large pumps that divert water to the Bay Area and Southern California.
To protect fish species, limits were placed on how much water could be pumped out of the Delta. Now, Governor Jerry Brown is proposing a $24.5 billion fix, known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Two 35-mile water tunnels would cross the Delta, bypassing the ecosystem from below. More than 100,000 acres of habitat would be restored. The majority of the costs would be covered by the water users.
Concerns remain about whether the plan would help the Delta’s ecosystem recover. Farmers and other residents in the Delta region fear permanent changes to their way of life. And water consumers south of the Delta are reluctant to pay for the project if it doesn’t include assurances that adequate volumes of water are delivered.
The tiny Delta smelt is famous for being a target in California's water wars, but it's dangerously close to extinction. That's bringing attention to anything that could harm the fish, including something rarely discussed: dredging Delta waterways for big cargo ships.
Here’s the thing: Water rights in California are based on who got there first. It’s as if you had to line up with all your coworkers to get a cup of coffee at work, and maybe the pot’s empty when the new guy gets to the front. Some are asking, in a drought like the one we’ve been having, is that really fair?
Startling maps in a new report on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta show the dramatic loss of marshlands that once supported a vast array of wildlife.
A new federal report affirms what scientists have been saying for years: California's "bank account" of snow-melt water may be overdrawn within decades.
Water worries persist -- and may be driving support for a multi-billion-dollar water bond.
Fights are breaking out over controversial water sales. Some farmers say they need the water to keep trees alive, while others say groundwater pumping depletes supplies for neighboring farms, and could threaten California's already-stressed aquifers.
State officials are trying to do damage control to help endangered salmon during the drought, but helping some fish could hurt others.
Governor Jerry Brown's emergency drought declaration allows regulators to relax some water quality standards, as the state tries to balance the needs of wildlife and people.
Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan is now open for public comment. State officials say the water supply for 25 million Californians from the Bay Area to San Diego is at stake, as is the health of the largest estuary on the West Coast. But before it can move forward, the project needs money and buy-in from wary water district managers and skeptical federal regulators.
California's $25 billion fix for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta depends on making wildlife groups and water users happy. With the latest release of the state's plan, it's looking harder to do both.
Every September, the majestic sandhill crane migrates by the thousands from their breeding grounds as far north as British Columbia to the San Joaquin Valley Delta to fatten up for the next breeding season. Their long-term survival depends on innovative collaborations between conservation biologists and farmers to manage agricultural land as high-quality habitat.
State officials have released details about environmental protections for endangered fish under Governor Brown's plan. The rules for freshwater flows are part of what’s being called “the decision tree.”
All eyes are on Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta water plan – what he’s calling a solution to California’s long-standing water battles. At the same time, a different state agency is quietly taking on a planning process that could have a much larger impact on the state’s water supply and wildlife.
More details have emerged on a $23 billion plan for California’s trickiest water problem: the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State water officials are proposing a pair of tunnels through the Delta, which supplies water to two-thirds of the state’s residents. That water supply will depend on thousands of acres of habitat restoration to bring back endangered fish.
Mark Twain is credited with the famous remark: “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting about.” And there is pretty much no better example than the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which over the last 150 years has undergone epic transformation and been the epicenter of equally epic political battles.
If you're not familiar with where the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is or why it's so important to the state, you're not alone. The inland estuary plays a crucial role in the California's water supply, but it faces an ecological crisis.
Water from the Delta has been fought over for more than a half century. Reporter Lauren Sommer sat down with Barry Nelson, the Senior Policy Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council to discuss the future of the Delta and California’s water supply.