The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex and competing issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, and water distribution.
The Delta, convergence of California’s two great water delivery systems and major rivers is depicted in this 36×24 inch map. The map graphically depicts the importance of the Delta — what it is, where it is and how water flows through the area. The 2001 map now includes Delta waterways, pumping facilities and canals, Los Vaqueros Reservoir, and many proposed projects and studies in CALFED’s 2000 Record of Decision.
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Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
For more than 30 years, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been embroiled in continuing controversy over the struggle to restore the faltering ecosystem while maintaining its role as the hub of the state’s water supply.
Lawsuits and counter lawsuits have been filed, while environmentalists and water users continue to clash over the amount of water that can be safely exported from the region.
With the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta crucial to California’s overall water supply, roughly 1,115 miles of levees protect farms, cities, schools and people.
Since the 19th century, levees—from the French word ‘lever’, or ‘to raise’— have been erected to protect “reclaimed” marshland, popularly referred to as Delta islands. The levees were built to prevent flooding and allow cultivation of the rich soil while protecting public infrastructure such as highways and pipelines.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes approximately 500,000 acres of waterways, levees and farmed lands extending over portions of five counties: Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo.
Freshwater flows from the Delta meets saltwater from the ocean near Suisun Marsh located to the east of San Francisco Bay. Suisun Marsh and adjoining bays are the brackish transition between fresh and salt water. But the location of that transition is not fixed.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been the hub of California’s water system for more than 50 years and along the way water experts have struggled to balance the many competing demands placed on the estuary—the largest on the West Coast.
Those demands include meeting the needs of agricultural communities in the Central Valley, water deliveries through the Delta to the Bay Area and arid Southern California, and providing habitat for plants and wildlife.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta always has been at the mercy of river flows and brackish tides.
Before human intervention, salty ocean water from the San Francisco Bay flooded the vast Delta marshes during dry summers when mountain runoff ebbed. Then, during winter, heavy runoff from the mountains repelled sea water intrusion.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource.
More than a century ago, farmers began building a network of levees to drain and “reclaim” what was then a marsh. Progressively higher levees were built to keep the surrounding waters out, the lands were pumped dry and the marsh was transformed into productive island farms, mostly below sea level. [See Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Timeline].
Over times, the home of these species-the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem-has been impacted for many decades by human activities, such as gold mining, flood protection and land reclamation. Along the way, more than 200 exotic species have been intentionally or accidentally introduced.
The Monterey Amendment, a 1994 pact between Department of Water Resources and State Water Project contractors, helped ease environmental stresses on the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.
As part of large-scale restructuring of water supply contracts, the Monterey Amendment allowed for storage of excess flows during wet years in groundwater banks and surface storage reservoir. This stored water could then be used later during dry periods or to help the Delta.
Invasive species, also known as exotics, are plants, animals, insects, and aquatic species introduced into non-native habitats.
Often, invasive species travel to non-native areas by ship, either in ballast water released into harbors or attached to the sides of boats. From there, introduced species can then spread and significantly alter ecosystems and the natural food chain as they go. Another example of non-native species introduction is the dumping of aquarium fish into waterways.
Without natural predators or threats, these introduced species then multiply.
Environmental concerns have closely followed California’s development of water resources since its earliest days as a state.
Early miners harnessed water to dislodge gold through hydraulic mining. Debris resulting from these mining practices washed down in rivers and streams, choking them and harming aquatic life and causing flooding.
Created as a state agency in 2009, the seven-member panel is responsible for creating a plan, known as the Delta Plan, to deliver a more reliable water supply while also protecting, restoring, and enhancing restoring the Delta ecosystem [to learn more about the estuary, see Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.]
Overseen by the California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Delta Risk Management Strategy evaluated the sustainability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and assessed major risks from floods, seepage, subsidence and earthquakes, sea level rise and climate change.
The Delta Pumping Plant Fish Protection Agreement stems from an early effort to balance the needs of fish protection and State Water Project operations. Negotiated in the mid-1980s, the agreement foreshadowed future battles over fish protection and pumping. [See also Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.]
Construction began in 1937 to build the Contra Costa Canal, the first part of the federal Central Valley Project. The Contra Costa Canal runs from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where it draws its water near Knightsen, to the eastern and central parts of Contra Costa County. It is about 30 miles from San Francisco.
This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying California’s long-term water supply reliability.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they might be provided.
This printed issue of Western Water examines science – the answers it can provide to help guide management decisions in the Delta and the inherent uncertainty it holds that can make moving forward such a tenuous task.
The critical condition of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has prompted the question of how it can continue to serve as a source of water for 25 million people while remaining a viable ecosystem, agricultural community and growing residential center. Developing a “dual conveyance” system of continuing to use Delta waterways to convey water to the export pumps but also building a new pipeline or canal to move some water supplies around the Delta is an issue of great scrutiny.
This printed copy of Western Water examines the Delta through the many ongoing activities focusing on it, most notably the Delta Vision process. Many hours of testimony, research, legal proceedings, public hearings and discussion have occurred and will continue as the state seeks the ultimate solution to the problems tied to the Delta.
Consider the array of problems facing the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta for too long and the effect can be nearly overwhelming. Permanently altered more than a century ago, the estuary – arguably the only one of its kind – is an enigma to those outside its realm, a region embroiled in difficulties that resist simple, ready-made solutions.
There are multiple Delta Vision processes underway and a decision on the future of the Delta will be made in the next two years. Unlike past planning efforts that focused primarily on water resource issues and the ecosystem, these current efforts are expanding to include land use planning, recreation, flood management, and energy, rail and transportation infrastructure. How – or if – all these competing demands can be accommodated is the question being considered.
This issue of Western Water examines the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as it stands today and the efforts by government agencies, policy experts, elected officials and the public at large to craft a vision for a sustainable future.
This issue of Western Water discusses the CALFED Bay-Delta Program and what the future holds as it enters a crucial period. From its continued political viability to the advancement of best available science and the challenges of fulfilling the ROD, the near future will feature a lively discussion that will play a significant role in the program’s future.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has been described as the “switching yard” of California ’s water delivery system, moving billions of gallons that supply the drinking water and irrigation for millions of people. When stakeholders signed the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord, it was a dual-purpose deal designed to preserve, protect and restore the ecosystem and increase water supply reliability.
This issue of Western Water examines the extensive activity associated with the projects and issues related to the Napa proposal – from increasing the state’s pumping capacity to improvements in the south Delta to the creation of a lasting Environmental Water Account to addressing water quality concerns. As of press time, the proposal was far from finalized, undergoing review and possible revision by government agencies and stakeholders.
The release of the CALFED Record of Decision in 2000 marked a turning point in the multi-year effort to craft a Delta “fix” that addressed both environmental problems and water supply reliability. How to finance the many components within the plan and ensure the plan is implemented over the next 30 years is a major issue.