What’s At Stake? Our Economy, Water Quality, Environment, and Quality of Life
Salinity Intrusion: the drinking water supplies of in-Delta water users in Contra Costa, Solano, and Napa Counties rely on fresh water that is being threatened by more and more intrusion of saltwater
Without adequate freshwater flows, salt water intrudes farther inland, compromising drinking water supply systems, freshwater ecosystems, and beneficial uses such as boating, recreational and sport fishing, and other uses.
Lost Jobs & Income: over $1 billion and thousands of jobs lost; fishing-based communities devastated
The 2008-2009 shutdown of the salmon fishery cost California $1.4 billion in lost economic opportunity and 23,000 jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. Fishing-based communities are being devastated by the loss of commercial species related to the Bay-Delta. Economically important fish and seafood species such as herring, anchovy, and Dungeness crab are also dependent on adequate circulation of freshwater with saltwater. Due to environmental degradation, California's $60 million a year crab industry was 4 1/2 months late for the 2015-2016 season.
Water Quality Decline and Increased Pollution: increased toxicity and pollution
Insufficient freshwater flow means a decline in water quality in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. Without the flushing and diluting effect of freshwater flows, particularly during high winter flows, the Bay-Delta could see an increase in toxic algae blooms, higher concentrations of pharmaceuticals, metals, and other contaminants, and saltwater intrusion into irrigation intakes.
With low freshwater flows and a changed flow regime, selenium stays in the Estuary longer, contaminating the food web. Selenium bioaccumulates in plant and animal tissue, causing deformities and birth defects.
Environmental Degradation: decline or extinction of fish species; stressed habitats; disruption of food webs
At-risk species include winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon, Delta smelt, and longfin smelt. These species all depend on an adequate mix of freshwater with saltwater. Additional species could also decline.
A decrease in freshwater flows means a more saline Bay and a more hospitable environment for invasive non-native species that are already competing with native species for resources, with the effect of creating monocultures within the estuarine ecosystem.
Even upland native species such as blue oaks show signs of stress in a more saline Bay; this stressor could impact multiple ecosystems around the Bay Area in unpredictable ways.
Productivity of the Bay-Delta food web could decline or collapse without adequate freshwater flows at the right times of the year.
Loss of a World-Class Destination: a healthy Bay and Delta are at the heart of the nearly $11 billion tourism industry
Tourism is the largest industry in the San Francisco Bay area, generating over $11 billon/year. A healthy Bay is central to Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Delta boating destinations, and other world-renowned tourist destinations.
The health of San Francisco Bay helps drive the Bay Area economy, which in turn impacts the national economy.
Quality of Life: the loss of a healthy Bay and Delta is the loss of treasured symbols of this region
The San Francisco Bay and Delta are treasured symbols of this region. In a 2010 survey, 92% of residents of the Bay Area agreed that it is important for the region’s economy to have a clean, healthy and vibrant San Francisco Bay.
The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary defines a sense of place for Bay Area residents, regardless of where they live. The vitality of the Bay and Delta reflects our values and priorities to the nation and the world.