The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta was once tidal marshland and was formed by the confluence of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers. The delta covers more than 1,000 square miles and is bordered by the major population centers of the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, and Stockton (fig. 1). The delta took its current form by the 1930‘s when drainage of 100 islands and tracts and construction of 2,250 miles of levees were completed.
The land surface on the delta islands has progressively subsided below sea level since the early 20th century. The integrity of the levee network is threatened because subsidence increases the differences in water levels maintained by the levees, which can cause levee failure and consequent flooding of the delta islands. Levee failure affects the quality and beneficial use of water in the delta, which is the major source of California‘s water supply to millions of residents and acres of agricultural land. This Fact Sheet briefly summarizes the research done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the California Department of Water Resources to assess the causes of subsidence, processes that affect subsidence, and carbon fluxes in the delta.