New Flow Criteria for Bay-Delta In Sync with Water Reform Law

August 3, 2010

Cynthia Koehler, California Water Legislative Director at EDF (415) 235-9432-c, or
Jennifer Witherspoon, EDF communications director at (415) 378-1985 or

(Sacramento–August 3, 2010) An environmental group that played a major role in developing last year’s water reform legislation is praising a state agency’s final determinations for necessary fresh water flow levels to protect the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its public trust resources, such as fish and waterfowl. The State Water Resources Control Board—which is charged with protecting California’s waters—released the final determinations today for the Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the Western Hemisphere and the major source of fresh water for 23 million Californians. 

“The Board’s action acknowledges that diverting 50 percent of the Delta’s freshwater flow is not sustainable, and that substantially more water is needed to maintain the health of the Delta estuary,” said Cynthia Koehler, California Water Legislative Director at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Today’s decision follows through on requirements of last November’s Delta bill (SB 7X-1). After surveying 30 years of science, the Board concluded the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary depends upon how much water is being left in the system.”

After decades of excessive pumping, the Delta is near ecological collapse. Declines in salmon runs have led to severe job loss in California’s coastal fishing communities. (Click here to see a short video from the April 1 “Salmon Summit,” where salmon fishermen and elected officials called for more sustainable water use to save wild California salmon runs and fishing jobs and more federal resources to manage the Delta as a waterway of national significance).

“The State Board’s decision underscores that all Californians, agricultural and urban water users alike, need to deploy common sense solutions to reduce water consumption,” said Laura Harnish, EDF’s West Coast Regional Director. “While today’s action is a victory, to make it a reality for the Delta, the Board’s flow criteria must become the foundation for ongoing water policy planning in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.”

The Salmon Summit

On April 1, 2010, 500 salmon fishermen, businesses and their families gathered in Fort Mason, San Francisco to demand protections of salmon fishing jobs and sustainable use of Bay-Delta water. California State Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Congressmen George Miller and Mike Thompson presented their thoughts on why it is important to protect these waters and jobs.


A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. Twitter: Blog: . Website: Facebook: