The Bay Institute was founded in 1981 by pioneers of a new advocacy approach — one that viewed the entire Bay-Delta ecosystem as a single, interdependent watershed. They claimed environmental reform that would benefit the Bay must recognize the importance of events in the farthest reaches of the watershed just as urgently as those along the Bay shoreline, and that reduced freshwater flow was the biggest factor in the decline of the estuary's fish and wildlife resources.
Today, this approach is commonly accepted wisdom. Tragically, it is also widely recognized that the water quality of the Bay and its river Delta is unacceptable, and that species and habitats are in danger.
The Bay Institute uses a combination of scientific research, political advocacy, and public education to work toward the environmental restoration of the entire watershed that drains into San Francisco Bay.
This watershed includes the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin Rivers as well as their tributaries, Suisun Marsh, San Pablo Bay, and San Francisco Bay. The land area covers 40 percent of California. Nearly half of the surface water in California starts as rain or snow that falls in this area, and about half of that is diverted for use on farms, in homes, and in factories. The remaining water flows downstream through the largest inland delta, the largest brackish water marsh, and the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas.
Our work also encompasses the centers of political and economic power, from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Washington DC., where we fight to ensure the long-term environmental needs of the SF Bay watershed have equal footing with other priorities in the formation of the area's environmental and economic policies.