California retains only 5% of its once-abundant wetlands, and the basic ingredient of any wetland is water. Protecting wetlands in California is a 100-year-old tradition, started by sportsmen and continued today by a broad coalition who recognize the value of wetlands that support wildlife, improve water quality, recharge groundwater, and encourage outdoor recreation. The Central Valley contains a chain of private, state, and federal wildlife refuges that form a network of habitat for millions of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds each year. Keeping them healthy requires an ongoing effort, involving water law and policy, new partnerships and projects, and long-term strategy.
Our remaining wetlands have survived major changes to our land and waterways. When rivers were dammed and floodplains disappeared, wetlands became actively managed to mimic what nature once provided. As agriculture became more water-efficient, wetland managers imported replacement water supplies, sometimes from hundreds of miles away. Now faced with more extreme droughts and water scarcity, combined with the pressures of urban development and increasing regulations, wetland advocates are working overtime to help wetlands adapt and persevere.