October 29, 2015
California is not just dragging its feet when it comes to updating and enforcing water quality standards for the beleaguered San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Instead, the State appears to be up to its neck in cement, paralyzed in its ability to enforce and update critical water quality standards for the largest and most important estuary on the west coast of the Americas. Despite requirements to update water quality standards every three years, the State has not meaningfully updated the standards for this estuary since 1995, and has not reviewed or updated them at all since 2006. In other words, the same water quality standards that led to the collapse of the Bay-Delta estuary and its fish and wildlife populations are still in place today. That’s why a group of national and local conservation groups, including NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Bay Institute, sent a letter today asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over the job of updating and enforcing safeguards for Bay-Delta water quality.
Nobody seriously questions the vital importance of maintaining water quality in the Delta, which is needed to protect drinking water quality for 25 million Californians, maintain the suitability of Delta water for irrigating more than 3 million acres of farmland, and sustain more than 700 species of fish and wildlife, including the salmon that form the backbone of the salmon fishery along much of the west coast. In fact, state law passed in 2009 directs the State to “improve water quality to protect human health and the environment consistent with achieving water quality objectives in the Delta” and to “restore the Delta ecosystem, including its fisheries and wildlife, as the heart of a healthy estuary and wetland ecosystem.”