The Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta and San Francisco Bay (hereinafter “Bay-Delta”) is an important economic and environmental resource benefiting all of California and the nation. The Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and Sacramento Valley water resources managers recognize the importance to California’s future of restoring the environmental health of the Bay-Delta and providing high quality and reliable water supplies for all beneficial uses. For the past several decades, NCWA has been a strong and constructive participant in the various processes designed to help solve the challenges in the Bay-Delta. We will continue to play a constructive role in implementing necessary solutions to Bay-Delta problems, as long as the actions do not redirect negative impacts upstream and they do not affect the ability to serve water for multiple beneficial uses in the Sacramento Valley.

NCWA and Sacramento Valley water resources managers have supported the state’s co-equal goals (providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem”) and have encouraged success in the formulation of Water Quality Control Plan amendments, Cal WaterFix, the Delta Plan, and related actions to help resolve the challenges in the Delta and to provide stability to California’s water system, as described in more detail below. The support for these various Delta plans and our ability to help these plans succeed, however will be premised upon respecting the unique and exceptional nature of the Sacramento Valley and fully honoring the water rights, supplies and regional self-sufficiency necessary to support this region. The Sacramento Valley is unique and distinct from the Bay-Delta–both geographically, by the way the water resources are managed, and the nature of the environment. Actions associated with the Delta plans should be undertaken in a manner that insures that solutions implemented to resolve problems within the Bay-Delta will not redirect negative impacts and thus will not affect the ability to serve water for multiple beneficial uses in the Sacramento Valley.

Sacramento Valley water resources all flow from the Sierra Nevada, Coast Range, and southern Cascade through the rich mosaic in the Sacramento Valley, where the rivers come together and funnel south past the Capital through the Delta, the Bays and then to the Pacific Ocean. Since the late 1800s, leaders throughout the Sacramento Valley have secured a variety of water rights and contracts for water and have invested significant public and private capital so that water supplies can either be directly diverted or stored to meet the various needs in the Sacramento Valley. These water rights and supplies are essential to serve multiple-benefits and support the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the Sacramento Valley by enhancing and preserving the rich mosaic of farmlands, cities and rural communities, refuges and managed wetlands, and meandering rivers that support fisheries and wildlife. These water rights and contracts also serve as the foundation for water management throughout California, including the state and federal water projects.

As the Bay-Delta debate continues in various forums, it is important that decision-makers and the public understand What’s at Stake in the Sacramento Valley. This is described in the publication below, which shows both the economic and environmental consequences if water is redirected away from Northern California and the Sacramento Valley.

Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta (WQCP)

For the past several decades, through the current WQCP (SWRCB D-1641) and the Biological Opinions (BiOps), more than 1 million acre-feet (Folsom Lake when full) has been dedicated to Delta outflow through these regulatory programs. During this same time, fish in the Delta have declined and water supply reliability has been reduced, thus defying the state’s co-equal goals.

We believe California needs a new and different path forward for the Bay-Delta. On November 13, 2017, water suppliers in every part of the state offered a new and innovative path to improve conditions for fish using a scientifically based approach to advance habitat, food and functional flows in the Delta:

“California needs new and modern approaches to supply water for cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds and recreation in the 21st century. Water suppliers in every part of California call on the Governor and both the state and federal administrations to embrace a coordinated and modern 21st century approach to water management for the Bay-Delta by protecting all beneficial uses of water….We support California’s co-equal goals of protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem and providing more reliable water supplies for California. We believe these goals can be achieved by holistically planning for ecosystem functions to ensure the most efficient use of water for all beneficial uses, by using the interaction of flow with other habitat aspects to create the type of conditions that allow us to meet our objectives. This requires us to take into account the altered physical landscape in California and our highly managed water system, which must be addressed in combination with appropriate hydrology to protect and balance all beneficial uses of water.”

This is described in more detail in the full letter.

A new approach has also been proposed by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) in early 2018, when it prepared a four-part blog series fashioned as “Advice on Voluntary Agreements for California’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.” This blog series together has posed a new approach for the Bay-Delta over the next several decades. NCWA and the SVWU are committed to voluntary agreements to address these important issues, which we believe can more effectively serve various beneficial uses of water than any single regulatory approach.

Importantly, since the State Water Board’s last major WQCP update in 2000, there has been a serious and concerted effort to implement the following types of programs and projects in the Sacramento River Basin:

  • flow arrangements;
  • habitat enhancements;
  • fish passage improvements;
  • fish-food production projects; and
  • studies to advance the science that informs management decisions.

These actions are described in comprehensive detail in the following document.

For more details on various Sacramento Valley perspectives on the proposed regulatory approach in the WQCP, see the following:

Cal Water Fix

For the past decade, NCWA working with the North State Water Alliance, has assembled a team of experts to provide detailed comments on the proposed California WaterFix (previously the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)). This team has focused on two processes: the State Water Board and the actions by the Natural Resources Agency.

With respect to the State Water Board process underway, nearly every water right holder upstream of the Delta has filed a protest claiming injury to their water rights and supplies. Under the Water Code, the proponents (DWR, Reclamation) must “demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the proposed change will not injure any other legal user of water” and provide “a statement of any measures proposed to be taken for the protection of fish and wildlife in connection with the change.” The issue before the State Water Board is how the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project will be operated in conjunction with the conveyance through the Delta.

With the Department of Water Resources (DWR) approving the Cal WaterFix and the related environmental documents in July 2017, various parties in the Sacramento Valley filed legal action challenging the environmental review process.

“The legal actions focus on the ongoing and universal concern (with supporting evidence) in Northern California that the California WaterFix will redirect impacts (water supply, environmental and financial) to the Sacramento River Basin, affecting the special mosaic of cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds, and recreation….To be clear, entities directly involved in the Delta have raised legal issues with the WaterFix physical facilities, while water suppliers upstream of the Delta are not directly focused on the tunnels or conveyance in the Delta. Instead, upstream water suppliers are primarily concerned that the operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) to support the tunnels would redirect impacts to the Sacramento River Basin.”

To summarize and be clear about the concerns in the Sacramento Valley in all these processes, NCWA on August 21 offered the following statement summarizing the legal action and the importance of an operations plan surrounding the tunnels to determine whether there will be an impact to water rights and supplies in the Sacramento Valley.

Natural Resources Agency’s Resiliency Strategies

NCWA and public water agencies and companies throughout California applaud the Natural Resources Agency for its efforts over the past several years to develop and aggressively implement both the Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy and the Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy. These strategies have helped provide habitat, nourishment and functional flows that show tremendous promise to improve conditions for fish. Importantly, the Resiliency Strategies show a new and innovative path to improve conditions for fish using a scientifically based approach to advance habitat, food and functional flows in the Delta. A statement supporting these strategies is shown below.

NCWA Bay-Delta Task Force

The NCWA Bay-Delta Task Force meets monthly to coordinate all the various efforts in the Sacramento Valley surrounding the Bay-Delta and to bring our team of Directors, water resources managers, attorneys, biologists, and engineers together to coordinate, strategize and take action to protect Northern California water rights and supplies and to help manage the water resources in our region for multiple beneficial uses.

Delta Resources

For more information on the Delta, please see the following:

A Beginner’s Guide to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Bay-Delta Live
Delta Conservancy
Delta Protection Commission
Delta Stewardship Council
North Delta Water Agency
San Francisco Estuary Institute