Low flows in the Sacramento River and Delta lead to deadly water temperatures for Central Valley salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, and smelt, including six state or federally listed endangered species. Water quality standards and operating requirements for the state and federal water projects should include new flow limits to protect fish.
Salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon are subjected to deadly spring and summer water temperatures when lower Sacramento River flows fall below 5000 cfs as measured at Wilkins Slough (Figure 1). Low flows and high water temperatures lead to poor survival and increased predation, and block migrations of adult salmon.
Low flows through the lower Sacramento River channel in the Delta also lead to deadly water temperatures for salmon and smelt. When Delta inflow falls below 10,000 cfs, water temperatures become deadly for Delta Smelt (Figure 2) and salmon (Figure 3).