The Bay Institute

The Bay Institute”s scientists and conservationists develop and lead model scientific research, education and advocacy programs that have a major impact on the health of the San Francisco Bay watershed.

Guided by science and a deep love of the Bay, we were founded in 1981 by visionary pioneers of a new advocacy approach that viewed the entire Bay-Delta ecosystem as a single, interdependent watershed. We knew early on that effective environmental reform 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.

The West Coast’s Largest Estuary

The San Francisco Bay watershed is the largest estuary on the West Coast. It includes the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries, Suisun Marsh, San Pablo Bay, and San Francisco Bay.

The watershed’s lands and waters cover 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.

Science, Education & Advocacy

Our job is to thoroughly research and disseminate the facts about the watershed’s health; educate the public, influentials, and law makers on our findings; and actively advocate for appropriate action to protect this precious resource.

Our work encompasses the centers of political and economic power, from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Washington DC, where we fight to ensure that the long-term environmental needs of the watershed have equal footing with other priorities in the formation of environmental and economic policies.

Impactful Results

For nearly 35 years we have worked tirelessly to influence policy makers to do right by the Bay. Some of our recent successes include:

  • Improved water flows for the San Joaquin River – in 2014, its freshwater reached the Bay for the first time in 18 years
  • Leveraged policy to reintroduce salmon to the Bay’s rivers
  • Led efforts to ensure new quality standards across all waterways in the Bay Area
  • Developed a scientific “horizontal levee” concept to provide green, economical protection for the Bay against rising sea levels
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