What’s At Stake? Our Economy, Water Quality, Environment, and Quality of Life
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, beneficial uses such as boating, recreational and sport fishing, and even local agriculture.
Degraded Water Quality and Increased 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, and higher concentrations of pharmaceuticals, metals, and other contaminants. 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.
Food Web Disruption and Extinction
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. Productivity of the Bay-Delta food web could decline or collapse without adequate freshwater flows at the right times of the year. 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.
loss of a world-class destination
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 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 passage of Measure AA in 2016 demonstrated that the majority of Bay Area voters are willing to tax themselves in order to improve the health of the 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.