As atmospheric rivers blasted across California this year, they
brought epic amounts of rain and snow follwing a three-year
Devastating and deadly floods hit parts of the state and now all
eyes are on the potential for more flooding, particularly in
the San Joaquin Valley as the record amount of snow in the
Sierras melts with warmer temperatures.
With anticipated sea level rise and other impacts of a changing
climate, flood management is increasingly critical in California.
The Water Education Foundation’s
just-released 2022 Annual Report recaps how
we returned to hosting in-person events and tours and
expanded our programs across the West as the global pandemic
began to wane early in the year.
TourJune 21-22 will take
you into the Sierra Nevada to explore the impacts of
this year’s historically large snowpack, reported at well
over 200% of average. Remaining seats are limited so don’t
miss your chance to examine water issues happening upstream that
have dramatic effects throughout the state.
What exactly is an ‘average’ snowpack and how is it measured? How
are those measurements then translated into forecasts of
California’s water supply for the year, and is climate change
making our reliance on historical patterns as a predictor
obsolete? You’ll get an opportunity to learn about
these topics directly from experts including Sean de
Guzman, manager of the California Department of Water Resources
Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit.
In recent years, it is the dry side of California that has
captured headlines: dwindling reservoirs where boat ramps lead
only to sand, almond orchards ripped up for lack of irrigation
water, catastrophic wildfires that rage through desiccated
forests and into towns. In the longer view, though, the state’s
water problems have come just as often from deluge as from
drought. Other parts of the country can count on reasonably
steady precipitation, but California has always been different,
teetering between drenching winters and blazing summers,
between wet years and dry ones — fighting endlessly to exert
control over a flow of water that vacillates, sometimes wildly,
between too much and too little.
It’s a fickle fish — one that evades even the most experienced
anglers and darts for cover when curious passersby try to spot
its freckled body against the backdrop of a gravel-lined
stream. Despite capturing the attention of many local
scientists and conservationists, California’s Central Coast
steelhead trout remain listed as threatened under the federal
Endangered Species Act, according to the latest review of the
species released in May by the National Marine Fisheries
Service, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. The population segment on the south-central
California coast reviewed by the federal agency, which has a
range stretching from the Pajaro River in Monterey Bay to
Arroyo Grande Creek, was first listed as threatened in 1997. It
hasn’t appeared to improve since then.
This year’s historic snowpack has meant epic amounts of
water flowing through California’s rivers, streams and creeks.
… That’s more than the capacity of four standard 40-foot
shipping containers rushing by each second. Around 40% of
the roughly 500 stream gauges across the state are running
above normal, provisional data from the U.S. Geological
Survey shows. A few dozen are registering record highs for
this time of year, especially along the central and southern
Sierra. With peak melt season expected in the coming weeks,
this means plentiful amounts of water running into reservoirs,
but also dangerously fast flows and the risk for
Much of California’s developed water supply originates in the
Sierra Nevada, making the state’s water supply largely
dependent on the health of forests. But those forests are
suffering from widespread tree mortality and other ecosystem
degradation resulting largely from the growing frequency
of severe droughts and wildfires. On our Headwaters Tour June
22-22, we will visit Eldorado and Tahoe national
forests to learn about new forest management practices,
including efforts to both prevent wildfires and recover from
Wetlands are among the most
important and hardest-working ecosystems in the world, rivaling
rain forests and coral reefs in productivity of life.
They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of
water, sequester carbon, reduce flooding and erosion, recharge
groundwater and provide a
diverse range of recreational opportunities from fishing and
hunting to photography. They also serve as critical habitat for
wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on
California’s endangered species
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the
Bay Model is a giant hydraulic replica of San Francisco
Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta. It is housed in a converted World II-era
warehouse in Sausalito near San Francisco.
Hundreds of gallons of water are pumped through the
three-dimensional, 1.5-acre model to simulate a tidal ebb
and flow lasting 14 minutes.
Drought—an extended period of
limited or no precipitation—is a fact of life in California and
the West, with water resources following boom-and-bust patterns.
During California’s 2012–2016 drought, much of the state
experienced severe drought conditions: significantly less
precipitation and snowpack, reduced streamflow and higher
temperatures. Those same conditions reappeared early in 2021
prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom in May to declare drought emergencies
in watersheds across 41 counties in California.