Responding to California's Drought

California is currently suffering from one of the most extreme droughts in the state’s history, with severe impacts on its people, environment and economy, including San Francisco Bay. Bay and Delta fish populations are crashing and several species could go extinct because of reduced fresh water flows. In some parts of California farms are becoming dust bowls and homes lack clean water to drink.

We must pursue drought responses that help local communities eliminate water waste and develop sustainable water supplies, and increase the efficiency of agricultural water use, while sustaining wildlife that depends on fresh water in streams and rivers.

This drought’s impacts are more intense because of unsustainable water management practices and outdated policies that have left us more vulnerable to extreme weather:

  • Damming of rivers and diversions of fresh water flows that salmon and other fish need to survive.
  • Artificially low water prices that subsidize waste and inefficiency, especially by agricultural users
  • Overpumping of groundwater without regulations – so much so that whole portions of the state are rapidly sinking
  • Relying on Sierra snowpack for water storage, even as climate change reduces snowfall
  • Moving water by pumps and aqueducts from one part of the state to another for agricultural use -- water pumping consumes more electricity than any other activity in California

The likely landscape for the coming decades includes longer droughts and more extreme storms that will bring more frequent flooding to Bay Area streams and shoreline communities, and threaten the economy. These greater extremes and variability in weather will causes sudden and severe shocks to the Bay’s ecology and wildlife, and increased threats to people.


There are actions each of us should take right now to use water wisely and save it for essential needs:

But personal responsibility alone cannot address the scale of the problem. In addition, state and local agencies must take action to promote efficient water use and protect natural resources.

Save The Bay will continue to work with policymakers to develop and promote more comprehensive drought responses that protect San Francisco Bay fish, wildlife, and water quality. And we’ll continue to partner with other organizations to advocate for policies and sustainable practices that provide sufficient fresh water for Bay and Delta species to survive, and the reliable fresh water supplies we need for human health and economic strength. 

Read more about California’s drought on the Save The Bay blog.