An expert on California's delta told a panel of the National Academies of Sciences on Sunday that their decisions about the largest estuary on the West Coast could alter how Californians use water.

The 15-member panel of independent scientists is meeting this week to examine whether the federal government should lift or modify limits on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, restrictions that farmers blame for a water shortage that has left once-fertile fields to wilt.

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