The Delta Plan

The Delta Stewardship Council was required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act to adopt and implement a comprehensive management plan for California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by January 1, 2012. The Plan was developed to guide state and local agencies to help achieve the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The Delta Plan became effective with legally-enforceable regulations on September 1, 2013.

The Delta Plan lays out 14 regulatory policies and 73 recommendations that start the process of addressing the current and predicted ecological, flood management, water quality, and water supply reliability challenges. As required by statute, the Delta Plan adopts a science-based adaptive management strategy to manage decision making in the face of uncertainty (Water Code section 85308(f)). 

The Delta Plan seeks first to arrest declining water reliability and environmental conditions related to the Delta ecosystem, and ultimately to improve them. It intends to achieve a more resilient ecosystem that can absorb and adapt to current and future effects of multiple stressors, including climate change. Additionally, it seeks to reduce flood risk, improve water quality, increase recreation opportunities in the Delta, and protect Delta legacy communities.

Though more than 50 miles inland from the Golden Gate, Delta waters rise and fall with ocean tides. The Delta is in fact the upstream, mostly freshwater portion of the San Francisco Estuary, the largest estuarine system on the West Coast of the Americas, and one of California’s prime natural assets. It is a major stop on the Pacific Flyway and the portal through which important fish species, including anadromous Chinook salmon, pass on their way to and from their spawning grounds in the interior. Approximately half of the water that historically flowed into and through the Delta is now diverted for human use, never reaching the sea. Two-thirds of California’s people and 4.5 million acres of farmland receive some part of their water from the Delta.

The Plan was prepared in consultation with, and to be carried out by, all agencies in the field: the State Water Resources Control Board, ultimate arbiter of water rights and water quality; the California Department of Water Resources, the state’s water planner and also operator of the great State Water Project; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, responsible for the welfare of the living system of the Delta; the Delta Protection Commission, which oversees land use and development on low-lying Delta islands; and many more agencies, State and local.


From the Council: “Beyond all local debates and confusions, the destination is clear. We want a Delta landscape that remains essentially itself while adapting gradually and gracefully to a future marked by climate change and sea level rise. We want a Delta ecosystem that works markedly better than today’s, reflected partly in a resurgence of native fish. And we want an end to the endless wrangling about Delta flows and plumbing - a truce that can only be achieved if the entire California water system undergoes a measure of reform.”



Publication Date: September 1, 2013

Related Organizations:

  • California's Delta Stewardship Council


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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