Why We Work to Protect California's Bay-Delta Estuary

Over the past several years, fights have raged in the Courts and Congress over protections for salmon and other endangered species in the Bay-Delta estuary.  Much of the media coverage has focused on a small set of vocal critics of environmental protection. On Hannity and on signs on I-5, the message is clear – we must choose between fish and people.  But we all know that’s a false choice, that a healthy economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. 

The Bay-Delta is a great example of this; it is a place where farmers, fishermen, and local communities have deep roots and understand that a healthy environment sustains the economy.  They know that their past and their future are linked to California’s largest aquatic ecosystem. 

But few people in California (and even fewer across the country) know where the Bay-Delta is located or are familiar with the communities that live there. 

This is why NRDC today released this short film about farmers and salmon fishermen working together to protect California’s Bay-Delta estuary. 


In the film, farmers and fishermen explain in their own words why protecting the Bay-Delta and its endangered species protects their jobs, and sustains their way of life. 

Protecting the Bay-Delta is about protecting our legacy as Californians.  The farmers interviewed in the film are only a few of the thousands of family farmers working their fields on the islands in the Delta, as they have for generations. Likewise, the fishermen interviewed in the film are only a few of the thousands of fishing jobs in California that depend on healthy salmon runs, and of the hundreds of thousands of families that want to again feel the thrill of a salmon on their fishing line, or enjoy grilling a salmon with friends and family. Protecting the Delta and ensuring sustainable water withdrawals protects their family farms, their fishing jobs, and ensures that future generations can enjoy wild salmon, steelhead, and a healthy environment.   That’s one reason why a growing chorus is speaking up in opposition to efforts to sacrifice the Delta ecosystem and thousands of jobs for the benefit of a few.

But protecting the Bay-Delta is also about protecting the future of California, because much of the state depends on the Delta for part of its water supply, and because the struggle over scarce water resources in the Delta will also play out across the West in coming decades, as climate change and population growth increase the stress on our rivers and wildlife.  Finding sustainable water solutions is a challenge we must meet.

Working together, we can sustain our fisheries, farming, cities and the environment.  The first step is to meaningfully reduce our reliance on water exports from the Delta by investing in proven, cost-effective improvements in water supply: groundwater, water efficiency, stormwater capture, and water recycling. Taking more water from the Delta, or worsening water quality in the Delta, is not the answer for the environment or for our economy.  

But don’t take my word on it – watch the film and see for yourself.  Talk with fishermen, or farmers in the Delta.  Their livelihoods depend on the future of the Delta.  Let’s join them, and help protect the legacy – and the future – of California.


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