Restore the San Joaquin Delta ecosystem

I am concluding this series of posts by focusing on the important and remarkable efforts of the Restore the Delta organization and the San Francisco Estuary Institute, the first of which is a grassroots community-powered group, and the other an institute that conducts scientific studies on restoring the San Joaquin Delta.  Both organizations are committed to responding to the current and projected disruptions to the Delta’s water quality and abundance.

restore-the-deltaAs this series of articles has outlined, the Delta is currently carrying the burden of providing water for upwards of 20 million Californian residents, local farmers, large-scale agribusiness, and federally protected fisheries in addition to buffering against saltwater encroachment from San Francisco Bay.

These organizations are good places to begin educating oneself on the negative effects on the Delta because of over-pumping at the state’s water pumps and the state’s plan to build two new water diversion tunnels from the Sacramento River – a major source of the Delta’s water flow.  The focus of these two organizations is holding the state accountable for upgrading Delta levees, maintaining sufficient water flow, regulating upstream pollutants, conserving fisheries, providing clean water to local farmers, and providing scientific guidance on how to implement ecological restorations.


Schematic illustrating how water will be diverted from the Sacramento River, bypass the Delta, and be delivered to the state water pumps


While Restore The Delta is actually opposed to the building of the new California WaterFix tunnels, the organization is already involved in restoration efforts to preemptively deal with the negative outcomes if/when the new water diversion tunnels are built.  Their political focus has been precipitated by the poor state of the Delta’s infrastructure and water quality, concerns of Delta farming sustainability, and blocking a large-scale water grab by the impending new water diversion tunnels that will be situated upstream of the Delta.

As it stands now, the proposed restoration plans for the Delta that were initially outlined in the California WaterFix proposal are being scaled back by the state, which has caused a rift between state agencies and communities that want the Delta restored – making the work of Restore The Delta and San Francisco Estuary Institute all the more important.

Restore The Delta, a conglomerate of municipal governments, community groups, environmentalists, and farmers in the greater Delta region, has steadily grown since their inception in 2012 to ensure that the water quality of the San Francisco Bay – San Joaquin Delta estuary will be restored for current and future generations of Californians.

san-francisco-estuary-institute-squarelogosfei_logoThankfully organizations such as Restore The Delta have their restoration concerns and efforts validated by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), which produces ongoing scientific studies on restoring the Delta estuary.  Providing methodologies to support long-term improvements to the Delta water quality and ecosystem functions, and to increase viable wildlife habitat.

Two current reports published by the SFEI, “A Delta Transformed” and “A Delta Renewed,” identify “how the Delta has been altered over time and how it might be altered again in the future to better support resilient populations of native wildlife.”   These reports provide essential and credible resources for not only scientists, but the community organizations that care about saving the Delta.


The SFEI provides open sourced access to their publications, and their 2016 publication titled “A Delta Renewed: A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta” is useful information for anyone interested in knowing more about the institute’s work.  The authors of this study clearly state that future restoration plans should provide clean and abundant water in the Delta that not only supports wildlife, such as Salmon and Smelt, but also the historical farms in the region. Furthermore, their reports “offers guidance for creating and maintaining landscapes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that support desired ecological functions, while retaining the overall agricultural character and water-supply service of the region.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the scientific or community based efforts to restore the San Joaquin Delta can get involved through either of these two organization’s websites, where direct actions are posted, publically available scientific reports and educational tools for downloading, and crucial updates on the construction of the California WaterFix new diversion tunnels.

Wetlands in the San Joaquin Delta

Throughout this series exploring the political, ecological and water quality issues of the San Joaquin Delta, and California’s ongoing struggle to provide water to all its communities and industries, it has become clear that I must continue to stay educated and motivated to do my part as a citizen of California that cares about water availability.

It has hopefully been made clear through this series of posts that water conservation and ecological restoration are fundamentally necessary in the Delta, one of the main sources of California’s water supply.  All Californians are affected by the decision made for our water security in the Delta, either through our dependence on water delivery, food production, salmon and fisheries conservation, and the overall importance of protecting the Pacific coast’s largest estuary.  All Californians will hopefully get involved to ensure that current and future generations will have access to fresh, clean, abundant, and available water by restoring the San Joaquin Delta.


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