California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Water Quality

What is Water Quality Planning?

A slough on Roe Island showing typical slough vegetation and adjacent tidal marsh

Protection of water quality is a vital component for conserving fish and wildlife resources. Water quality is regulated by state and federal laws which are primarily administered by the State Water Resources Control Board and the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (California Water Boards) which are part of the California Environmental Protection Agency. A key component of water quality protection is the development of water quality control plans, which include basin plans. These plans contain the regulations needed to protect water quality and describe the beneficial uses of waters of the state. They also contain water quality objectives, policies, and programs of implementation which key regulatory actions depend upon. When knowledge and regulatory approaches to statewide and regional concerns are improved, they are incorporated periodically into these plans during public reviews. As public trustees with shared roles in protecting water quality for supporting California's fish and wildlife resources, CDFW coordinates with the California Water Boards by contributing water quality planning knowledge and expertise.

Role of Water Quality at CDFW

The needs of fish and wildlife inform water policy, legislation and execution of water quality policy and management. The Statewide Water Planning Program represents CDFW in high profile water quality policies and water quality concerns with statewide implications by coordinating with the State Water Board and other state agencies. CDFW regional offices generally coordinate with the Regional Water Boards and local agencies regarding water quality standards policy and permitting processes at the regional and local level. This engagement provides for consistent program delivery statewide, increased effectiveness of regional participation, and timely submission of scientifically defensible recommendations.

The Statewide Water Planning Program also coordinates with other CDFW Branches on wetlands regulation and policy development, including the State Water Board's Wetland and Riparian Protection Policy, and the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup.

CDFW has specific authority through the Fish and Game Code to protect the waters of the state from pollution and to provide oversight and approval of projects altering or diverting lakes or streams. These water quality activities are divided among the following programs at CDFW:

Key Activities:

  • Coordinate water quality concerns with CDFW headquarters and regional staff; other agencies; and the regulated and environmental communities.
  • Provide technical expertise in the development of water quality control plans, total maximum daily loads, and conservation measures that focus on water pollutants.
  • Identify waters that do not meet water quality standards.
  • Establish statewide procedures and guidelines for assessment of the effects of discharges of waste.
  • Participate in the development and modification of water quality assessment tools.
  • Conduct field inspections and evaluations of water quality impacted sites.
  • Define and monitor wetlands.
  • Develop wetland, fish and wildlife mitigation measures.

Water Quality Policy Development

Senate Bill X7 1

Senate Bill X7 1 enacted the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009 which directed CDFW to develop quantifiable biological objectives and flow criteria for species of concern dependent on the Delta; and directed the State Water Board to collect information to develop a report of flow criteria that would be needed to protect public trust resources in the Delta.

State Water Resources Control Board — Update of the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary Water Quality Control Plan

The process to update the 2006 San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary Water Quality Control Plan (Bay-Delta Plan) (PDF) began in February 2009 and is slated for adoption by June 2, 2014. The update has been split into two concurrent phases: Phase I is for updates to the San Joaquin River flow objectives for fish and wildlife, and salinity and agricultural beneficial uses. Phase II is for all other portions of the Delta including export/inflow ratios, and Delta outflow.

CDFW is committed to providing the State Water Board with additional data and information throughout the update of the Bay-Delta Plan.