UC Law Environmental Journal


In the field of natural resources policy, there is a longstanding tendency for good science to get compromised and diluted when it comes to final agency actions and policies. In the water policy arena, this tendency has been particularly prevalent when it comes to agency-mandated instream flow standards, which often depart from agency determinations of what instream flow is needed to maintain healthy fisheries and ecosystems. In late 2021, the California Water Quality Monitoring Council approved the California Environmental Flows Framework (“CEFF”). The CEFF makes a distinction between “ecological flow criteria” and “environmental flow recommendations” and anticipates that CEFF “environmental flow recommendations” may depart from CEFF “ecological flow criteria” to accommodate consumptive uses of water. This article evaluates the extent to which the CEFF methodology may both support and hinder efforts to ensure there is instream flow to support healthy fisheries and ecosystems.