- Author: Michelle Leinfelder-Miles
The Delta is one of the most contentious regions of California because its infrastructure is pivotal to water conveyance throughout the state. Approximately half of the state’s annual runoff navigates the rivers and tributaries of the Delta (DWR, 2008). The water supplies 22 million Californians with drinking water, four million acres of agricultural land throughout the state with irrigation water, and an ecosystem that harbors 750 plant and animal species (Water Education Foundation, 2010). What is not consumed in these ways leaves the Delta to the San Francisco Bay.
While the Delta is critical for statewide water deliveries, to the people who live and work in the Delta, the region is important for its history, tradition, and unique sense of place. The region is rich in agricultural history. When miners could not make their fortune in the Gold Rush in mid-1800’s, they turned to farming the fertile, organic soils of the Delta. The land was “reclaimed” by building levees, and bountiful grains, forages, vegetables, and fruit crops have been produced ever since. In 2012, the top Delta crops by acreage were corn for grain and forage (approximately 98,000 acres), alfalfa (72,000 acres), and wheat (43,100 acres).
The Delta occupies just one percent of California’s total land area, and only about a half a million people live there out of the state’s 37 million residents, but the spirit of the Delta abounds, and that was demonstrated on the 2012 Alfalfa and Grains Symposium Delta field tour.