San Francisco Bay Chapter Sierra Club

The San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, the watershed at the heart of the Bay Area

Water, Watersheds, and the Bay

The San Francisco Bay Chapter focuses 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.

The Water Committee usually meets the third Monday of the month. If you have experience or expertise in this area, and would like to volunteer, contact one of the committee co-chairs:

Sonia Diermayer: / (510) 336-1102;

Charlotte Allen: / (510) 683-9552.

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.

On July 20, 2013, Sierra Club California passed a resolution to oppose the governor's proposal to construct a pair of tunnels through the Delta.

For more reading about Delta issues see:

» set of Yodeler articles about the governor's project;

» "Meeting water needs through savings, not tunnels";

» the Sierra Club's Delta Water Policy;

» "Preparing for climate change in the Delta and its watersheds" at

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


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 and

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

Project LifeRaft

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?

» To get involved, contact Water Committee co-chair Sonia Diermayer at
» For more about the Bay Chapter's ICO Rafting Section, see

See all Yodeler articles on the Water, Watersheds, and the Bay.

A California water primer

» Introduction
» 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