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Science Bulletins: California Delta in Crisis

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta is at a crossroads. More than a century ago, the region, which is upriver from San Francisco Bay, was converted from freshwater tidal marsh into a hub of California's water supply. According to a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California, "Most Californians drink water that passes through the Delta, and most of California's farmland depends on water tributary to the Delta."Serious declines of native species like the delta smelt, invasions of nonnative ones, and rising sea levels from climate change are just some of the region's concerns. This Bulletin highlights another major issue-how decades of draining and diking have contributed to a notable subsidence of the land, leaving the system physically unstable. The possibility of earthquakes from the five major faults near the delta only compounds the risk of widespread flooding and saltwater pollution, which would seriously affect water supplies. Yet as the delta's issues mount, so does attention from stakeholders seeking lasting solutions to both sustain natural ecosystem processes and manage the delta's resources for the benefit of all.
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