The world’s largest water lift, the Edmonston Pumping Plant is a
State Water Project
facility. The pumping plant plays a vital role in Southern
California’s economy by supplying the semi-arid region with badly
An acre foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough
water to cover an acre of land 1-foot deep.
To put it another way, an acre foot of water is enough to flood a
football field 1-foot deep (a football field is roughly an acre
An acre foot of water is a common way to measure water volume and
use. In California, an acre foot, or 326,000 gallons, can
typically meet the annual indoor and outdoor needs of
two average households. But, in more recent years,
an acre foot began serving even more households.
As the single largest water-consuming industry, agriculture has
become a focal point for efforts to promote water conservation.
In turn, discussions about agricultural water use often become
With this in mind, the drive for water use
efficiency has become institutionalized in agriculture
through numerous federal, state and local programs.
California’s rich agricultural productivity comes with a price.
The dry climate that provides the almost year-round growing
season also can require heavily irrigated soils. But such
irrigation can degrade the local water quality.
Two of the state’s most productive farming areas in particular,
the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley and parts of the Imperial Valley in Southern
California, have poorly drained and naturally saline soils.
Agriculture drainage issues date back to the earliest farming. In
ancient times, farmers let fields stay fallow hoping rain would
flush out salt.
Today, salt and other contaminants continue to cause agricultural
drainage problems, particularly in California. Whether a field is
adequately drained, or saturated with water, the water still has
to be removed.
The disposal of this often-contaminated water continues to be a
challenge in California, with the environmental effects of
selenium and other drainage-related elements changing the course
of drainage planning.
Algal blooms are sudden overgrowths
of algae. Their occurrence is increasing in California’s
rivers, creeks and lakes and along the coast, threatening the
lives of people, pets and fisheries.
Only a few types of algae can produce poisons, but even nontoxic
blooms hurt the environment and local economies. When masses
of algae die, the decaying can deplete oxygen in the water to the
point of causing devastating fish kills.
As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world,
the Imperial Valley
receives its water from the Colorado River via the
All-American Canal. Rainfall is scarce in the desert region at
less than three inches per year and groundwater is of little
Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that
are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.
Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently
making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to
the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff
(as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura
County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have
drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature
also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.
The American River, with headwaters
in the Tahoe and Eldorado national forests of the Sierra Nevada,
is the birthplace of the California Gold Rush. It currently
serves as a major water supply, recreational destination and
habitat for hundreds of species. The geologically diverse
North, Middle and South forks comprise the American
River or the Río de los Americanos, as it was called during
California’s Mexican rule.
Anadromous fish are freshwater fish
that migrate to sea then return to spawn in fresh water.
In California, anadromous fish include coho salmon, chinook
salmon and steelhead. Those inhabiting rivers across the Central
Valley have experienced significant declines from historical
populations. This is due to drought, habitat destruction, water
diversions, migratory obstacles such as dams, unfavorable ocean
conditions, pollution and introduced predator species.
Applied water refers to water delivered by an application to a
user, either indoors or outdoors. Applied water use typically
occurs in an agricultural or urban setting.
In agriculture, applied water is typically supplied through
irrigation, which uses such devices as pipes and sprinklers.
There are also different types of systems including gravity flow
and pressurized systems.
With soil absorbing applied water and being porous (some water
can move down below a plant’s root zone), it is necessary to
apply more water than a crop might need.
The legal term “area-of-origin” dates back to 1931 in California.
At that time, concerns over water transfers prompted enactment of
four “area-of-origin” statutes. With water transfers from
Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to supply water for San Francisco
and from Owens Valley to Los Angeles fresh in mind, the statutes
were intended to protect local areas against export of water.
In particular, counties in Northern California had concerns about
the state tapping their water to develop California’s supply.
ARkStorm stands for an atmospheric
river (“AR”) that carries precipitation levels expected to occur
once every 1,000 years (“k”). The concept was presented in a 2011
report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) intended to elevate
the visibility of the very real threats to human life, property
and ecosystems posed by extreme storms on the West Coast.
Both the drought and high nitrate levels in shallow groundwater have necessitated deeper
drilling of new wells in the San Joaquin Valley, only to expose
water with heightened
arsenic levels. Arsenic usually exists in water as arsenate
or arsenite, the latter of which is more frequent in deep lake
sediments or groundwater with little oxygen and is both
more harmful and difficult to remove.
Jean Auer (1937-2005) was the first woman to serve on the
California State Water Resources Control Board and a pioneer for
women aspiring to be leaders in the water world.
She is described as a “woman of great spirit who made large
contributions to improve the waters of California.” She was
appointed as the State Water Board’s public member by
then-Governor Ronald Reagan and served from 1972-1977 during a
time period that included the passage of the federal Clean Water
Act. She became part of the growing movement for water quality
regulations to stop water pollution.