Delta and Statewide Planning Processes

This page last updated on July 13, 2015.

many_ways_to_go_400_clr_7107-1Currently, there are three major planning processes focused exclusively on the Delta, two broader statewide plans, and multitudes of smaller plans and programs that affect the Delta in some way.  Some plans are in the implementation stage while others are still in the planning stages.

What are all these different plans and processes? This page will help sort them all out for you.  On this page, the various plans and programs are organized and summarized and links are provided for more information. Delta-focused planning processes are covered first, followed by the statewide plans, and lastly, brief summaries of the various smaller plans and programs which affect the Delta in some way.

This page is meant to be a reasonably complete listing of plans and programs underway; however, with so many agencies at work with a hand in the Delta, not every plan or program may be listed here.  Did I miss something important?  Let me know.  Your comments and suggestions welcome.  Email Maven

On this page: (Click on to jump to a section or scroll down to browse)

Major Delta Planning Efforts:

Statewide Planning Efforts:

Other Plans and Programs:



The Delta Tunnels Project

Cal Water Fix LogoCalifornia Water Fix, more commonly known as the “Delta tunnels” project, is the Brown Administration’s controversial plan to build new infrastructure in the north Delta to deliver water via two 30-mile long tunnels to the existing water export facilities in the south Delta.  The project is a trimmed-down version of its predecessor, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (or BDCP), which has been in the planning stages since 2006.

Administration officials assert that the project is needed to shore up the water supplies that are critical for the state’s economy, and that the new infrastructure will benefit the Delta’s ailing ecosystem and native species by utilizing state-of-the-art technology and allowing for more natural flow patterns. Delta advocates insist the Plan is too expensive and say that the new facilities will deprive the estuary of needed freshwater flows that will only hasten the collapse of the Delta’s ecosystem and native fish populations.

Fixing the Delta: A vexing problem

The Delta is many things to many people: a magnificent estuary, fertile and productive agricultural lands, a popular recreation spot – it is also the hub of the state’s water system and the center of the water debate for decades. Despite many failed attempts to address the Delta’s issues, today the delta is undeniably in a state of crisis as evidenced by plummeting populations of several of the Delta’s threatened and endangered fish species, some to new historic lows. DWR Delta patterns #10Debate rages on about the causes: is it water exports, altered flows, loss of habitat, contaminants, harmful non-native species, or something else? Add to that, there are those who question whether the Delta’s levees can withstand earthquakes or strong storms, and the rising sea levels and other climate change impacts only add to the disputes.  (For a pictorial look at this complicated place, check out this slideshow.)

Many (but not all) of the Delta’s current problems can be attributed to the southern location of the facilities that draw in water for the state and federal projects. Under normal conditions, the Sacramento River flows into the Delta from the north, the San Joaquin River enters from the south, the rivers meet and flow out through the Carquinez Straits into San Francisco Bay and ultimately the ocean. But when the project pumps are in operation, they actually create ‘reverse flows’ that pull the water southward towards the pumps, rather than allowing it to flow out towards the San Francisco Bay. These reverse flows adversely affect salmon migration patterns and impact many fish species by pulling them towards the intake facilities where they can be subject to predation or entrainment in the pumps. In an attempt to reduce the impacts on fisheries, in recent years regulators have limited the amount of water the state and federal projects can export from the Delta.

Flow Direction in the South Delta, from the Delta Plan

Flow Direction in the South Delta, from the Delta Plan


The facilities planned for in the California Water Fix are intended to alleviate this problem; diverting water from the north Delta would reinstate a more natural direction of river flows and fish would be protecting by state-of-the-art fish screens.

It is the diversion of water from the north Delta that is one of the main points of controversy (although there are others): Delta advocates say that by diverting the water before it can flow through the Delta will only deprive the estuary of needed freshwater flows, worsen water quality for farmers and residents, and drive native species to extinction. Administration officials counter that the new state-of-the-art facilities will improve environmental conditions and be more protective of fish; new operating criteria will protect spring outflow and Sacramento River flows. Delta stakeholders are wary that protective criteria will be overridden if it means less water can be exported.  The science and the modeling are uncertain, and so the debate rages on.

Endangered species and water project operations

The Central Valley Project facilities began drawing water from the south Delta in the 1940s; the State Water Project facilities were completed 20 years later. These facilities were engineered and built at a time when the environment and species were not a societal concern; they operated unimpeded by environmental regulations until the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws were enacted in the 1970s. These new laws made protection of the ecosystem an explicit obligation for the state and federal water projects, and today, these facilities are operated by a complex set regulations and restrictions that govern how, when, and how much water can be exported from the Delta. This has reduced the amount of water that can be drawn to satisfy urban and agricultural demands.

DWR Delta Clifton CourtIn order to comply with federal endangered species regulations, a federal agency such as the Bureau of Reclamation must consult with the federal fish agencies to determine whether planned activities will likely jeopardize a listed species or damage critical habitat; the fish agencies then issue a biological opinion. If it is determined the planned activities won’t affect listed species, a ‘no-jeopardy’ opinion is issued, allowing the activities to proceed; if the fish agencies determine planned activities would harm listed species, a jeopardy opinion is issued which includes steps the agency must take to avoid extinction of a species.  Reconsultation is initiated when the amount of ‘take' of species allowed in the permit is exceeded, new information is received on the project's impacts, substantial modification of the project or action, or a new species becomes listed.  (More on the consultation and biological opinion process here.)

The Bureau of Reclamation has gone through the consultation process as required, but the resulting biological opinions for Delta smelt and salmon were challenged in court, found to be inadequate for various reasons, and ordered to be rewritten. The case was appealed, and the biological opinions upheld.  As of August 2015, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Water Resources have released environmental documents analyzing their implementation.  Meanwhile, regulations have reduced the amount of water available to be exported in recent years and native fish species populations continue to decline.

From BDCP to California Water Fix: A change in regulatory direction

In 2006, the Department of Water Resources, the Bureau of Reclamation, and several state and federal water contractors proposed utilizing a habitat conservation planning approach that would provide for new water infrastructure facilities while at the same time, pursuing large-scale restoration and other activities to benefit the Delta’s ecosystem as a whole. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (or BDCP) would comply with endangered species regulations by seeking permits as a Habitat Conservation Plan under federal endangered species regulations and as a Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) under state endangered species regulations.

Chinook salmon Battle Creek #1A habitat conservation planning approach sets a higher standard for protection of species and habitat than the traditional biological opinion approach; habitat conservation plans are designed to recover listed species to the point where they no longer need to be listed, and to prevent the possible listing of other species. It is often viewed as a preferable to the single-species biological opinion approach as a conservation plan is implemented on a landscape-level allowing multiple species and multiple issues to be addressed. Developed in the mid 1990s, habitat conservation plans have most often used for urban development in open spaces that sets aside habitat for species while also allowing development to occur; the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was the first time the habitat conservation planning process was being attempted on such a large-scale for an aquatic ecosystem.

Habitat conservation plans require additional actions to benefit covered species and aid in their recovery; they are therefore more costly to implement. However, the benefit of these plans is that if they are approved, long-term permits are issued which include regulatory assurances. Sometimes referred to as ‘no-surprises,’ these regulatory assurances essentially mean that if everything is to be implemented as specified in the approved plan and unforeseen circumstances occurred that adversely affected a covered species, no additional compensation or restrictions are placed on the project. These regulatory assurances are one of the main incentives for project proponents to take on the added cost and extra effort of the habitat conservation planning process.

Delta #11 Feb 2013In December of 2013, the agencies released the draft habitat conservation plan documents and their associated draft environmental documents – a massive 40,000 pages – with the public review period closing at the end of July, 2014. During the six month comment period, over 12,000 comments were received from other state and federal agencies, environmental groups, organizations, and stakeholders; reviews were mixed, at best.

There were concerns expressed about the effectiveness of tidal marsh restoration, especially given the plan’s reliance on significant amounts of habitat restoration for ecosystem recovery. Many expressed concern over the length of the permit term, saying there was just too much uncertainty to issue permits with regulatory assurances for 50 years. Concerns were expressed by the EPA and others that the project would likely increase salinity and contaminant levels within the Delta, providing better water quality for export from the Delta at the expense of the farmers and municipalities that draw their supplies directly from it. Others expressed concerns that the impacts of the project both upstream of the Delta and downstream in the San Francisco Bay were not analyzed. Still other commenters expressed concerns about the modeling, construction impacts, and how climate change was being incorporated.

In December of 2014 in response to the comments received, the lead agencies announced major design changes to the project; however, these changes would not prove enough to overcome the uncertainty that the project could be permitted under a habitat conservation planning approach, and so in April of 2015, Governor Brown announced that the project would return to the more traditional process and seek consultation and biological opinions for the new facilities. The new water infrastructure facilities would now be called “California Water Fix”; restoration activities, greatly downscaled to about one-third of the BDCP’s acreage, would be pursued separately under the “California Eco Restore” program.

Cal Water Fix

Cal Water Fix Logo

Click here to visit California Water Fix online.

In July of 2015, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Water Resources released partially recirculated draft documents reflecting a return to a traditional permitting strategy. The documents analyze new alternatives that focus only the new facilities and the associated mitigation required for the impacts of the construction and operation of those facilities.

Identified in the new documents as Alternative 4A, the facilities remain much the same as its predecessor, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s Alternative 4; there are three 3,000 cfs intakes on the Sacramento River in the north Delta and the 2,100 acres of ecosystem restoration required for mitigation.

Click here for the Notebook's road map for the revised documents.

However, Alternative 4A does incorporate key changes, such as the reduction in power requirements by the elimination of the three pumping facilities; a reduction in construction and associated impacts on Staten Island; a reduction in water quality impacts; and the increased use of more state-owned property rather than private property. Further refinements include converting concrete sedimentation bays to earthen bays, eliminating the need for pile driving by 75% at each intake site, as well as reducing construction noise, truck trips, and the amount of concrete needed for construction.

The recirculated documents also analyze two other alternatives: a single intake 3000-cfs facility and a 5-intake, 15,000 cfs facility.  Other substantive changes are included, as well as information added in response to technical comments received on the December 2013 public review draft documents; however, only those sections where changes or modifications have been made that necessitate additional public review according to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are included in the recirculated documents.

Opposition to the project remains strong.  Main opponents are Restore the Delta and Friends of the River, among others.  Other groups propose different conveyance options, such as the NRDC’s smaller 3000 cfs tunnel option, or Bob Pyke's Western Delta Intakes Concept; there are other proposals as well.  Main groups in support of the project are Californians for Water Security, the State Water Contractors, and the Southern California Water Committee.

For more information …

Cal Eco Restore

EcoRestore Logo

Click here to visit California Eco Restore online.

With only about 5% of the historical wetlands remaining, restoration of habitat is still considered a critical component of the state’s plan to improve conditions in the Delta. Restoration activities will now be pursued independently of the new facilities through the California EcoRestore program, which is proposing to restore more than 30,000 acres of habitat within the next 5 years; this is significantly less than the 100,000+ acres originally envisioned with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

California EcoRestore is proposing 17,500+ acres of floodplain restoration; 3,500 acres of managed wetlands; 9,000 acres of tidal and sub-tidal habitat restoration; and an additional 1,000+ acres of habitat and flood management projects. Much of the restoration proposed is part of regulatory requirements long imposed by the biological opinions that govern the operation of the state and federal water projects, but progress on meeting the restoration requirements have been slow, at best. The program is proposes to accelerate completion of those projects, as well as 5,000 acres of additional restoration beyond what is mandated by the biological opinions.

DWR Delta birds & patterns #7Under the EcoRestore program, plans will be completed for Cache Slough, West Delta, Consumnes, and the South Delta; other projects in the Suisun Marsh and Yolo Bypass are already underway. Additional priority restoration projects will be identified and implemented by the Delta Conservancy.

Funding for the restoration will come from multiple sources. The restoration required by the biological opinions will be paid for by the state and federal water contractors with the Administration assuring that that the contractors will receive no help from Prop 1 funding for fulfilling their regulatory mandates. Funding sources for additional restoration include AB32 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds, multi-benefit flood management projects, and other local and federal partners.

The Cal EcoRestore program will be overseen by the California Resources Agency and implemented under the California Water Action Plan.

For more information …

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Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan (Bay Delta Plan)

waterboard_logoThe San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary Water Quality Control Plan, also known as the ‘Bay-Delta Plan’ for short, was last updated in 2006.  It is a water quality control plan developed by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), the state agency charged with protecting water quality as well as allocating water rights.  The State Water Board develops statewide policies and regulations for California’s water bodies under the authority of the Federal Clean Water Act and the state’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.

Bay Delta WQCP Cover

Click here to read the 2006 Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

The State Water Board's update of the Bay-Delta Plan is  focusing on evaluating the impact of insufficient freshwater flows as one of the stressors that may be contributing to the plummeting fish populations in the estuary.  Given that the State Water Board stated in a 2010 report, (pg. 15) “the best available science suggests that current flows are insufficient to protect public trust resources,” it is widely expected that the water board will adopt flow objectives that will require increased freshwater flows through the Delta.

The update of the Bay-Delta Plan takes on added importance as the Delta Reform Act of 2009 specifically mandates that construction of any new conveyance facilities cannot begin until the State Water Board approves the change in the point of diversion, and that such an approval must include appropriate flow criteria. Additionally, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan recommends that the State Water Board develop and implement flow objectives for the Delta watershed by June of 2014.

At the center of the plan: setting objectives

The Bay-Delta Plan identifies beneficial uses of the Delta’s waters and then sets water quality objectives to protect those uses.


The Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan is implemented through Water Right Decision 1641. Read those documents by clicking here.

In determining water quality and flow objectives, the Board is required by law to balance the competing uses of water to protect public trust uses, including fish and wildlife, while also considering the public interest in drinking water, hydropower, agriculture and other beneficial uses. The State Water Board then determines how to achieve those objectives, usually by setting conditions on water right permits or licenses, or through actions such as regulation of discharges of pollutants or projects that manage agricultural drainage.

The review, development, and adoption of water quality and flow objectives require public participation, as well as consideration of alternatives and preparation of environmental documents in accordance with CEQA.

The Bay-Delta Plan sets specific objectives for constituents, such as salinity or dissolved oxygen;  inflows to the Delta from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers as well as for Delta outflow into the San Francisco Bay, and limits on the amount of water that is exported from the Delta.

Going with the flow …

The Delta Reform Act of 2009 directed the State Water Resources Control Board to develop new flow criteria for the Delta’s ecosystem necessary to protect public trust resources in order to better inform planning decisions for the Delta Plan and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as well as the State Water Board’s processes.  In August of 2010, the State Water Board adopted the report, Final Report on the Flow Criteria for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Ecosystem, which specifies the volume, quality, and timing of water necessary for the Delta under different hydrologic conditions to protect fish and wildlife.  The flow criteria does not consider other beneficial uses and has no regulatory effect.

Bird in the brush at Three Mile Slough #2 04-2008 smallerFelicia Marcus explained the reason behind the development of the flow criteria in her speech at the UC Davis California Water Policy Seminar Series: “It basically was if the fish could talk, what would the fish ask for, and was a counterpoint to what the water suppliers had been asking for, so that as we moved into this planning process, both at the BDCP and the water board, that the fishes voice would be thrown into mix rather than ignored.”

Flow criteria is just one factor that the State Water Board will take into consideration when setting flow objectives as they are required by law to consider and balance all the beneficial uses, which include protection of the public trust resources of fish and wildlife. but also all of the Delta's other beneficial uses, such as  municipal and agricultural water use, hydropower, and recreational uses.  Given how contentious water issues can be, this balancing of competing uses generally means that if the State Water Board had done a good job of it, no one stakeholder group is going to be completely satisfied.

  • Read the report. Final Report on Development of Flow Criteria for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Ecosystem, by clicking here.
  • Cassie Aw-Yang of Somach Simmons and Dunn summarizes the flow criteria report here.

The update process

The Bay Delta Plan is being updated in four phases:

  • Phase 1: The first phase of the update considers potential changes to the San Joaquin River flow objectives in order to protect fish and wildlife beneficial uses in the San Joaquin River and its salmon bearing tributaries, as well as salinity objectives to protect agricultural beneficial uses in the southern Delta. To visit the State Water Board's webpage on Phase 1, click here.

delta cross channel

  • Phase 2: The second phase focuses on the other parts of the Bay-Delta Plan that aren’t covered in phase one.  This includes Delta outflow objectives, export and inflow objectives, and schedule for closure of the Delta Cross Channel gates.  The Board will also be considering new reverse flow objectives for the Old and Middle Rivers as well as potential new floodplain habitat flow objectives.  To visit the State Water Board's webpage on Phase 2, click here.
  • Phase 3: The third phase, implementation, will include determining the changes to water rights and other measures needed to implement the plan, and will begin once final objectives for phase 1 and/or phase 2 have been adopted.
  • Phase 4: Phase four of the update process involves developing flow objectives and implementation plans for high-priority tributaries to the Delta that currently are not specifically regulated in this way.    The process will begin by first determining the flow criteria for the protection of fish and aquatic life with an emphasis on protection of threatened or endangered species; this criteria will be then taken into consideration as the objectives are tailored to each tributary to address it’s unique characteristics, public trust resources, and beneficial uses.  To visit the State Water Board's webpage on Phase 4, click here.

How the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan fits with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the Delta Plan

The Delta Reform Act specifies that no construction of any conveyance facilities can begin until the State Water Board approves the new point of diversion, and that such approval must include appropriate flow criteria.  The Act also specifies that the flow criteria shall be subject to modification through adaptive management.

Besides approving any changes in the point of diversion, the State Water Board will need to issue a water quality certification pursuant to the Clean Water Act, as well as other permits for construction.  Once approved, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will be regulated by the State Water Board and subject to meeting the water quality objectives as determined by the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

  • To read the Delta Reform Act, click here.  The portion pertaining to the State Water Board is found in Chapter 2.

The Delta Plan's recommendation ER R1 calls for the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt and implement updated flow objectives for the Delta that are necessary to achieve the coequal goals by June of 2014, and for the Delta's high priority tributaries by 2018.  Until the new objectives are established, the existing Bay Delta
Water Quality Control Plan objectives are used to determine consistency with the Delta Plan. After the flow objectives are revised, the revised objectives will be used to determine consistency with the Delta Plan.

Timeline for completion:

The Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan had recommended that the State Water Board develop and implement flow objectives for the Delta watershed by June of 2014. However, the lengthy processes and procedures necessary, coupled with the exceptional drought conditions, have pushed the timeline back considerably as limited staff and resources have necessarily been allocated to address drought issues.

Phase 1, the San Joaquin River flow objectives, could possibly be completed in 2015; the first draft of the objectives have been in the process of being revised after significant comments were received during the public workshop. In 2014, workshops were held to inform Phase 2 process. Phase 3, the implementation phase, can only begin once the first two phases are complete.  Phase 4, setting the flow objectives for the Delta's priority tributaries, is just beginning and is hoped to be completed by 2018.

For the latest updates and news on the Bay-Delta Plan posted on the Notebook blog, click here.

For more information:
  • State Water Board webpage:  You will find fact sheets, frequently asked questions, and more resources regarding the update at the State Water Board's webpage by clicking here.
  • Status of the Plan:  For the latest updates and news on the Bay-Delta Plan posted on the Notebook blog, click here.

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Delta Plan

The Delta Plan is California's long-term comprehensive plan for managing the water and environmental resources of the Delta as well as dealing with the multiple stressors that impact its ecosystem.  Fundamentally different than any previous attempt to solve the Delta's myriad of problems, the Delta Plan represents a new era in governing the Delta by setting a legally-enforceable path forward – both for the Delta and for the state.

The Delta Reform Act of 2009 defined the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem as overarching state policy; the legislation also specified that the coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the Delta as an evolving place.  In addition, the Act set a state policy of requiring reduced reliance on the Delta through a statewide strategy of improved regional supplies, conservation, and water use efficiency.

Delta Feb 2013 #30 smallerIn order to facilitate coordination across multiple entities with responsibilities in the Delta, the Delta Reform Act created the Delta Stewardship Council as an independent state agency directed it to develop, adopt and implement a Delta Plan that furthers the coequal goals.  Recognizing the importance of science to effective management of the Delta, the Act also established the Delta Independent Science Board and mandated the use of ‘best available science’ and ‘adaptive management’ in the Delta Plan, as well as activities that occur under the Plan.

Final Delta Plan cover

Click here to read the Delta Plan.

The Delta Plan, adopted in May of 2013, is the state's plan for meeting the coequal goals. The Delta Plan contains 14 regulatory policies with which State and local agencies are required to comply; any plan, project or program that meets the criteria of being a ‘covered action' as specified in the Delta Reform Act will be subject to the Delta Plan's regulations.  The Delta Plan also specifies 73 non-regulatory recommendations that identify interconnected actions essential to achieving the coequal goals.  Key objectives of the Delta Plan include reducing reliance on the Delta, successful completion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, updating Delta water quality standards, addressing multiple Delta stressors, and protecting the Delta as a unique place.  The Delta Plan's policies and recommendations address emergency preparedness in the Delta, flood risk reductions and priorities for state investments in levee maintenance and improvements.

The Delta Plan is the subject of seven lawsuits challenging the Plan's EIR, objecting to the Plan's regulations, or simply arguing that the Council lacks authority to do anything.

Timeline for completion:

The first Delta Plan was adopted by the Council in May of 2013.  The next update, scheduled to be every 5 years or sooner, if need be, would occur in 2018.

For more information:
  • To read the final version of the first Delta Plan, click here.
  • To visit the Delta Stewardship Council online, click here.

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California Water Plan

PRD-banner-474pxThe California Water Plan is the state's long-term strategic plan for guiding the management and development of water resources.  Updated every 5 years, the Plan is developed with extensive stakeholder involvement, from individuals and groups to government agencies, nonprofits and NGOs that represent multiple disciplines and tribal, regional, and local interests as well as environmental, agricultural, and urban concerns.


Click here for the highlights document of the 2013 California Water Plan.

The Plan describes current water resource conditions, identifies potential future conditions and the factors driving those changes, recognizes the challenges and impediments to effective solutions, and lays out an extensive list of potential actions that are intended to move California toward more sustainable management of water resources and more resilient water management systems.  Seventeen objectives and over 300 specific actions are identified; however, the Plan does not create mandates, prioritize actions, or allocate funding, although funding is discussed.

The Plan is intended to inform legislative action as well as planning processes and decision making at all levels of government.

The California Water Plan is organized into five volumes:

Volume 1: The Strategic Plan:  Volume 1 provides an overview of issues and challenges, as well as details the Plan's strategies which are built around three themes:  advancing integrated water management, strengthening government agency alignment, and investing in innovation and infrastructure.  Chapters describe current and future conditions, financing options, and managing an uncertain future, as well as a Road Map for Action.

Volume 2: Regional Reports: The regional reports detail the current conditions of the area's resources such as watersheds, groundwater, ecosystems, as well as provide information on demographics, water supplies, water quality and uses.  The reports also discuss the region's accomplishments and challenges, as well as define future conditions, such as population growth, water demand, and climate change.

recycled waterVolume 3: Resource Management Strategies:  The third volume identifies 30 Resource Management Strategies (RMSs) that can be used to help meet the water resource needs of the different regions in the state.  The strategies are narratives that are written by subject matter experts and include a definition of the strategy, its current use, the potential benefits and costs, implementation issues and recommendations, as well as additional references for more information.  Strategies identified in the California Water Plan include actions such as agricultural and urban water use efficiency, conjunctive management and groundwater, desalination, watershed management, forest management, and urban stormwater management.

Volumes 4 and 5: Reference and Technical Guides: The Reference and Technical Guides, as well as a glossary, will be released in early 2015.

Timeline for completion:

The California Water Plan is never done; it is a continuous planning cycle that strives to update the documents every five years.  The 2013 update was finally released at the end of October, 2014, initiating the next planning cycle, Update 2018, already underway.

For more information:
  • Click here for the California Water Plan documents.

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California Water Action Plan

jerry brownThe California Water Action Plan is Governor Brown's 5 year plan to move California toward more sustainable water management by providing more reliable water supplies for farms and communities, restoring important wildlife habitat and native species populations, and to take actions that will help the state’s water systems and environment become more resilient in the face of future changes.  The Water Action Plan is designed to support the goals of reliability, restoration, and resilience, and is a clear articulation of the actions the administration is committed to seeing completed during Governor Brown’s remaining time in office.

CWAP Cover

Click here to read the California Water Action Plan.

The California Water Action Plan, a joint effort between the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the California Environmental Protection Agency, was released in January of 2014.  It lists ten actions and associated sub-actions that include: making conservation a California way of life, increasing regional self-reliance and integrated water management, achieving the coequal goals for the Delta, protecting and restoring important ecosystems, preparing for droughts, expanding water storage, improving groundwater management, and increasing flood protection.

The Water Action Plan also calls for continued work on the San Joaquin River Restoration project, local partnerships to protect key habitat at the Salton Sea, and continued restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin.

For more information:
  • To read the California Water Action Plan, click here.
  • For a report on the progress of implementation of the plan and more information, click here.

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Central Valley Flood Protection Plan

cvfpb_logoThe Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) is a system-wide flood management approach to reduce the risk of flooding for about one million people and $70 billion in infrastructure, homes and businesses with a goal of providing 200-year (1 chance in 200 of flooding in any year) protection to urban areas, and reducing flood risks to small communities and rural agricultural lands.  The CVFPP proposes physical and system improvements in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins to address urban, small community and agricultural area flood protection while integrating ecosystem restoration opportunities and climate change considerations.  Only portions of the Delta that are covered by the State Plan of Flood Control are included in the CVFPP, which amounts to about a third of the Delta's levees.  For more information on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, click here.

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Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board’s Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Basins

waterboard_logoThe Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board designates beneficial uses of water bodies, establish water quality objectives to protect those uses, and defines an implementation plan to achieve the objectives, much as the State Water Board does.  Whereas the State Water Board's Bay-Delta Plan sets objectives for salinity and water project operations, the Central Valley Regional Water Board's basin plan sets objectives for contaminants such as toxic chemicals, bacterial contamination, pesticides and methylmercury.  The State Water Board's Bay-Delta Plan is intended to be complementary to the Central Valley Regional Water Board's basin plan, but supersedes the regional water board's plan to the extent there is any conflict.

  • For more on the Central Valley Regional Water Board's water quality control plan, click here.

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Delta Science Plan

DSCLogoCurrently, science is conducted in the Delta by numerous public agencies, organizations, and academic institutions, each with its own mission and agenda with little coordination and oftentimes no plans to share data and information.  Absent a common vision and strategy, Delta science would continue to occur in these programmatic silos with limited integration and scientific conflict will likely continue.  The Delta Science Plan, a product of the Delta Science Program, seeks to address the fragmentation of science in the Delta by developing shared agendas, priorities, and data, and by creating a plan to build more effective interactions between the scientific community and policy and decision makers.  The vision is to build an open science community, “One Delta, One Science,” that will work together to build a shared body of scientific knowledge that will have the capacity to adapt and inform management decisions across multiple organizations and programs.  The Delta Science Plan defines 28 specific actions to achieve the stated objectives of managing scientific conflict, coordinating and integrating Delta science, promoting and performing science synthesis, building more effective policy-science interactions, providing support for adaptive management and advancing the state of Delta knowledge.  The first Delta Science Plan was completed and accepted by the Delta Stewardship Council in October of 2013.

  • For more information on the Delta Science Plan, click here.

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Ecosystem Restoration Program

ERP_focusThe Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) is an effort by CDFW, USFWS and NMFS to recover endangered and at-risk species, protect and restore habitats and ecological processes, address non-native invasive species, and improve water and sediment quality both within the Delta and in the major rivers and tributary watersheds that are directly connected to the Delta below major dams and reservoirs.  Current projects in the Delta include riparian, upland, floodplain, and marsh habitat restoration projects; fish screens and fish passage projects; environmental water quality projects, and species assessments.  The ERP coordinates with the many other programs and activities in the Delta including the Delta Conservancy, CVPIA, Fish Restoration Program Agreement, Fish Passage Improvement Program, State Wildlife Action Plan, the California Water Quality Monitoring Council, and the Central Valley Regional Water Board.

  • For more information on the Ecosystem Restoration Program, click here.

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Fish Restoration Program Agreement

dwrlogoThe Fish Restoration Program Agreement is an agreement between the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources to address and implement the habitat restoration requirements and related actions in the Delta, Suisun Marsh, and Yolo Bypass as mandated by the biological opinions.  The actions taken by the FRPA will mitigate impacts to delta smelt, longfin smelt, and winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon as a result of SWP operations in the Delta. The primary objective of the program is to restore  8,000 acres of intertidal and associated subtidal habitat in the Delta and Suisun Marsh to benefit delta smelt, 800 acres of low salinity habitat to benefit longfin smelt, and a number of related actions for salmonids.

  • For more on the Fish Restoration Program Agreement, click here.

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Delta Land Use and Resource Management Plan

delta protection comm logoThe Delta Protection Commission is the agency responsible for maintaining and implementing a resource management plan for the Primary Zone of the Delta, which includes includes approximately 500,000 acres of waterways, levees and farmed lands.  The Management Plan guides projects that impact land use, agriculture, natural resources, recreation, water, levees, and utilities and infrastructure within the primary zone.  The Plan extends over portions of Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, who are required to be consistent with the Management Plan.

  • For more on the Land Use and Resource Management Plan, click here.

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  • Thank you very much for doing this. Seems like all the plans except BDCP (for the most part) skirt the question of who pays. The statewide plans lack milestones or any organizing principle other than “overcoming the crisis,” “reducing dependence on the delta,” or “improving water quality.” How about setting milestones for system-wide efficiency where all the conservation projects and water quality remediation projects have to yield demonstrated flexibility for the whole system? This means not just ascribing value to the concept of “reducing dependence on the Delta” but monetizing the value of actual water saved that can move within regional systems once that reduced dependence is quantified. If that idea doesn’t cut it, who has ideas for adding all this planning up to something real and meaningful? We’ve known for years what to do, the answer may rest in understanding why despite all this planning we are not doing them. I suspect it has to do with money.

  • Rich Holland

    Wow, thanks for this. The concept of this all being one massive “take” permit is a good way to get a handle on the immensity of the resources at stake. Getting a grip on seven concurrent lawsuits against the Delta Plan is something I have found very hard to do. Perhaps you could help (or already have and I just haven’t found it). Thanks again.

  • Rich Holland

    Found which has links to latest action in Delta Plan lawsuits.

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