The surface renewal method was used to estimate evapotranspiration (ET) for a restored marsh on Twitchell Island in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, USA. ET estimates for the marsh, together with reference ET measurements from a nearby climate station, were used to determine crop coefficients over a 3-year period during the growing season. The mean ET rate for the study period was 6 mm day−1, which is high compared with other marshes with similar vegetation. High ET rates at the marsh may be due to the windy, semi-arid Mediterranean climate of the region, and the permanently flooded nature of the marsh, which results in very low surface resistance of the vegetation. Crop coefficient (Kc) values for the marsh ranged from 0·73 to 1·18. The mean Kc value over the entire study period was 0·95. The daily Kc values for any given month varied from year to year, and the standard deviation of daily Kc values varied between months. Although several climate variables were undoubtedly responsible for this variation, our analysis revealed that wind direction and the temperature of standing water in the wetland were of particular importance in determining ET rates and Kc values. Published in 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.