The Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan performance measures online dashboard includes relevant information and data for decision makers in the Delta, its surrounding watershed, and the San Francisco Bay estuary.

The Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan performance measures online dashboard includes relevant information and data for decision makers in the Delta, its surrounding watershed, and the San Francisco Bay estuary. Photo: Paul Hames/Department of Water Resources

Delta Plan Performance Measures: If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It

December 19, 2019

By Martina Koller

Recognizing the importance of management theories rooted in the adage, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” the California Legislature in the Delta Reform Act of 2009 required the Delta Plan to include measures to track performance and implementation of the Plan.

First adopted in 2013, the Delta Plan included a set of initial performance measures, which were later refined with input from the Delta Independent Science Board, the public, and federal, state, and local agencies. In 2018, the Council adopted a suite of new and updated measures to reflect best available science and Delta Plan amendments made in recent years. This year, the Council launched a new online dashboard that visualizes metrics, baselines, and targets associated with the Plan’s 154 performance measures.

Not only do these measures provide critical information that the Council uses to adaptively manage the Delta Plan and understand if Delta Plan strategies are working, they are also useful for federal and state agencies with roles in implementing specific pieces of the Plan. The online dashboard is also an important step toward making the Delta Plan more accessible to a wide range of stakeholders.

Although many of the datasets that support the Delta Plan’s performance measures are too young to reveal long-term trends (yet), the measures will become increasingly valuable as more data is collected, logged, and displayed on the dashboard. Ultimately, the measures will help decision makers innovate management approaches based on quantitative feedback on the hydrological, ecological, and human characteristics that define the Delta as a unique and evolving place.

The new dashboard covers the three types of performance measures in the Delta Plan: administrative, output, and outcome.

Administrative performance measures track what has been done to further the actions set forth in the Delta Plan, for example, new laws, projects, or reports. The designation of the Delta as a National Heritage Area and the development of funding priorities for investments in Delta levees are examples of actions tracked by administrative performance measures.

Output performance measures, also known as drivers, track what has happened in the Delta, such as the number of acres of carbon sequestration projects or the use of alternative water supply sources to reduce reliance on the Delta.

Outcome performance measures evaluate what has changed in the Delta, such as the Delta water exports matched to available water, the number of days the Yolo Bypass is inundated, and the number of new non-native terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.

An essential component of performance measure management is to ensure that these measures continue to track the effectiveness of the Delta Plan and evolve based on best available science and data while remaining consistent enough to preserve the value of long-term monitoring. As part of our approach to performance management, Council staff are beginning to develop a performance measures assessment protocol that establishes an annual, replicable process for data analysis, quality assurance and control, performance assessments and evaluations, and technical and management-relevant reporting. Throughout this process, we encourage our partners and stakeholders to explore the new online dashboard and submit questions or comments through our online form or contact us at

Access the recently updated online performance measures dashboard here.

Delta Stewardship Council Program Manager Martina Koller.

About the Author

Martina Koller is a Program Manager at the Delta Stewardship Council. In her current role, Martina manages the performance management team and works to integrate science and monitoring results into decision-making. Previously, she worked on adaptive management and science communication with the Delta Science Program and on fish habitat connectivity restoration at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.