The California Environmental Quality Act, commonly known as CEQA, serves a key foundation for the state’s environmental protection efforts. The law requires that projects with the potential for significant impacts on the physical environment undergo an environmental review. [See also California water rights.]
California will always be inextricably linked to its water resources. Water continues to shape the state’s development and no resource is as vital to California’s urban centers, farms, industry, recreation, scenic beauty and environmental preservation.
But California’s relationship to water is also one that continues to generate controversy.
Every five years the California Department of Water Resources releases an updated version of the California Water Plan— a comprehensive compilation of water data that guides future water policy in the state. The plan is commonly referred to as Bulletin 160.
Spurred by legislative mandate, the Water Plan serves as a guide for state and local officials as they pursue adequate water stewardship at a time of reduced allocations, drought and climate change.
California’s Legislature passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1972, following the passage of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Congress in 1968. Under California law, “certain rivers which possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values shall be preserved in their free-flowing state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state.” Rivers are classified as:
Francis C. Carr (1875-1944) and his descendants played a prominent role in the development of the federal Central Valley Project, including Shasta Dam, and the creation of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
In the Northern California community of Redding, he was a justice of peace, a renowned water rights attorney in the law firm of Carr and Kennedy and helped form the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District. He was often in the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., advocating for funds from Congress to get this visionary project built for the benefit of all of California. In his honor, the Judge Francis Carr Powerplant was named after him.
The East Fork begins in the mountains of California’s Sonora Pass and after flowing through California and Nevada, it meets the West Fork just south of Carson City. The West Fork forms at California’s Carson Pass, running through California and into Nevada to its junction with the East Fork.
Birthed in part by a long-ago federal effort to create farmland, today the Central Valley Project is one of the largest water and transport systems in the world. In years of normal precipitation, it stores and distributes about 20 percent of the state’s developed water through its massive system of reservoirs and canals.
Climate change involves natural and man-made changes to weather patterns that occur over millions of years or over multiple decades.
In the past 150 years, human industrial activity has accelerated the rate of change in the climate due to the increase in greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide). Scientific studies describing this climate change continue to be produced and its expected impacts continue to be assessed.
The Coachella Valley in Southern California’s Inland Empire is one of several valleys throughout the state with a water district established to support agriculture.
Like the others, the Coachella Valley Water District in Riverside County delivers water to arid agricultural lands and constructs, operates and maintains a regional agricultural drainage system. These systems collect drainage water from individual farm drain outlets and convey the water to a point of reuse, disposal or dilution.