Water, Watersheds, and the Bay
Water is essential to all life, is central to the functioning of every ecosystem—and is at the heart of the work of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter and its Water Committee.
We work to preserve the health of watersheds as key wildlife habitat and as the sources of our water supply. A special concern in every watershed are wetlands, essential for filtering out pollutants and as our most productive type of habitat.
We focus on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, the watershed at the heart of the Bay Area, as well as on smaller local watersheds, both wild and urban. We also work to protect and restore rivers and watersheds throughout California.
Any human development affects water flows and quality; these concerns help shape our efforts to stop sprawl and to build healthy cities—healthy human habitat. We often work to influence our local water-supply agencies about decisions with important environmental impacts.
>>For information about Water Committee meetings (usually third Monday of the month), contact committee co-chairs Sonia Diermayer at (510)336-1102 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Charlotte Allen at (510)683-9552 or email@example.com.
At least five different proposed desalination plants are under consideration by Bay Area water agencies. The Sierra Club is definitely opposed to the proposed Mallard Slough plant, and the Bay Chapter Water Committee is studying all these proposals. For more information see theYodeler.org/?p=6253.
On March 31, 2012, the Bay Chapter Water Committee held a conference on "Bay Area Regional Desalination Facility--Solution or Problem?". Follow-up materials on the conference are available at theYodeler.org/?p=4259.
Help prepare Sustainable Water Plans
The Bay Chapter Water Committee is asking for your help in preparing Sustainable Water Plans for local water agencies. This is a great project for people interested in learning (or who already know) about the fascinating but technical details of water supply. Help us research and analyze water-supply data, prepare graphic presentations, and learn about water-supply alternatives and water-agency conservation programs. For details, see http://theyodeler.org/?p=6685.
The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay form the largest estuary on the West Coast south of Alaska. Such estuaries, where fresh and salt water mix, are among the richest zones of biological productivity and diversity. Human impacts, however, have brought this ecosystem to the brink of collapse. The pumps of the State Water Project and the (federal) Central Valley Project, in the south Delta, pump southward an ever-increasing volume of water to Central Valley farmers and southern California urban water users. When one adds in other water pumped from the Delta, as well as from rivers upstream of the Delta, this watershed provides 13 million acre-feet of water/year, approximately 30% of the total water used by (human) Californians--and that water withdrawal translates into drastically less water flowing through the Delta and supporting Delta life. Runoff of fertilizers and pesticides from farming, and of sewage effluent and raw sewage from our cities, pollutes the water. The reduced flows also allow saltwater to intrude from the ocean. Global climate disruption—with more erratic rainfall and sea-level rise—exacerbates these threats.
People are constantly proposing plans to intensify this water use (or occasionally to moderate it), and so for many decades Sierra Club California and the Bay Chapter have been deeply involved in efforts to protect the Bay and its ecosystems.
The good news is that efforts to restore the Bay are second only to the restoration of the Everglades in Florida.
>> Read the Sierra Club's Delta Water Policy.
>> "Preparing for climate change in the Delta and its watersheds" at theYodeler.org/?p=6955.
Project LifeRaft was conceived when several Water Committee volunteers brainstormed on how to introduce younger generations to the beauty and importance of California's river resources. A casual conversation at a Wilderness First Aid class between an Inner City Outings volunteer and a member of the Bay Chapter Water Committee brought these two Sierra Club entities together as partners in further developing the concept. (ICO is an all-volunteer outreach program of the Sierra Club that provides wilderness experiences for at-risk individuals who might not otherwise have them.) The outcome was a program of activities for ICO rafting guides to engage participants in learning about stream and streamside ecosystems, about the importance of rivers, and about ways to protect them. Central topics include:
- where does the river come from, and where does it end up?
- who/what lives in this watershed?
- what “services” does the river provide to the natural environment and to humans?
- which factors affect flow levels?
- what are the effects of dams and water withdrawals?
- the river is a finite resource; who should get how much water?
The program was introduced during the 2011 ICO rafting season. Feedback from leaders and participants is being used to help determine what can be changed or improved.
Do you have environmental education experience? Are you interested in being involved in the ongoing work of improving/expanding Project LifeRaft activities?
The Bay Chapter has a long tradition of working to protect the wetlands along the bayshore. Sometimes this takes the form of opposing inappropriate development; sometimes of working for protective zoning or acquisition of the lands by a public agency. The articles below tell of some recent and current efforts:
>>Learn more about our efforts to Protect the Richmond Shoreline.
>>"Sharp Park lawsuit successful"; see theYodeler.org/?p=6513
>>"Environment wins round one on Saltworks"; see theYodeler.org/?p=5062
>>"Efforts continue for stopping Hayward power plant"; see theYodeler.org/?p=797
The Sierra Club San Francisco Group is working closely with 20 other organizations in the America's Cup Coalition to make sure that the America's Cup races fulfill their potential for a positive environmental legacy. For more details see theYodeler.org/?p=5877.
A California water primer
>>Finding out about your water
>>Who uses how much? California water by the numbers
>>The potential for water conservation
>>Water and power: joined at the hip
>>The watershed approach to planning
>>Making all our landscapes water-wise landscapes
>>Where there's rain, there's runoff: integrated water management begins at home