Facing the challenges of sustainably managing and sharing water,
our most precious natural resource, requires collaboration,
education and outreach. Since 1977, the Water Education
Foundation has put water resource issues in California and the
West in context to inspire a deep understanding of and
appreciation for water.
Taking a steady pulse of the water world, the Foundation offers
educational materials, tours of key watersheds, water news, water
leadership training and conferences that bring together diverse
voices. By providing tools and platforms for engagement with wide
audiences, we aim to help build sound and collective solutions to
What We Do
We support and execute a wide variety of programming to build a
better understanding of water resources across the West,
Mission: The mission of the Water Education
Foundation, an impartial nonprofit, is to inspire understanding
of water and catalyze critical conversations to build bridges and
inform collaborative decision-making
Vision: A society that has the ability to
resolve its water challenges to benefit all
Where We Work
Our office is located in Sacramento, CA.
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Registration is now open for one of
our most popular events – Water
101, which for the first time will include an optional
daylong tour examining one of California’s most critical
Water 101, to be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of Law in
Sacramento, details the history, geography, legal and
political facets of water in California as well as hot topics
currently facing the state. Taught by some of California’s
leading policy and legal experts, the workshop
gives attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most
precious natural resource.
In 1983, a landmark California
Supreme Court ruling forced Los Angeles to reduce its take of
water from Eastern Sierra creeks that fed Mono Lake. It marked a
dramatic shift in California water law by extending the public
trust doctrine to tributary creeks that fed Mono Lake, which is a
navigable water body even though the creeks themselves are
Some 35 years later, an appellate court in Sacramento
for the first time has concluded that the same public trust
doctrine used in the Mono Lake decision also applies to
groundwater feeding the navigable Scott River in a picturesque
corner of far Northern California.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
“Dry, hot and on fire” is how
the California Department of Water Resources described Water Year
2018 in a
The 2018 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018)
marked a return to dry conditions statewide — and with much of
Southern California receiving half or less of its average annual
precipitation — following an exceptionally wet 2017.
Was 2018 simply a single dry year or does it signal the
start of another drought? And what can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019? Does El Niño really mean anything
for California, or is it all washed up as a predictor?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec.
5 in Irvine, water managers and anyone else interested in this
topic will learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
People in California and the
Southwest are getting stingier with water, a story that’s told by
For years, water use has generally been described in terms of
acre-foot per a certain number of households, keying off the
image of an acre-foot as a football field a foot deep in water.
The long-time rule of thumb: One acre-foot of water would supply
the indoor and outdoor needs of two typical urban households for
Only a few tickets are left for our
California Tour, Oct. 10-12, when we will venture deep
inside Shasta Dam and tour wildlife refuges and rice
fields as we learn about water use and salmon restoration
efforts in the farm-heavy region.
In addition to Shasta Dam, we will see newly accessible views of
the Oroville Dam spillway and get an on-site update of
repairs to the cornerstone of the State Water Project,
including live camera feeds from the ongoing construction site.
Explore more than 100 miles of
Central California’s longest river, subject of one of the
nation’s largest and costliest river restorations. Our San Joaquin River
Restoration Tour on Nov. 7-8 will feature speakers from key
governmental agencies and stakeholder groups who will explain the
restoration program’s goals and progress.
The Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
Our Oct. 10-12 Northern California
Tour will explore the myriad agricultural uses of water
throughout the Sacramento Valley, including the latest ways in
which farms are adapting to changes in California’s groundwater
and surface water resources.
The valley, the northern portion of California’s Central Valley,
is known for some 2 million acres of farmland irrigated by the
Sacramento River and its tributaries, along with groundwater.
Primary crops grown in the region include rice, peaches, plums,
tomatoes, walnuts and other nuts.
Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the many varieties of insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam, in Northern Arizona near the Utah border, disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry and their loss directly affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
More than 260 California water
suppliers — many of them small systems in disadvantaged
communities — don’t meet safe drinking water standards. One
solution to getting those communities clean water is as simple —
and as complicated — as connecting them to a larger supplier
At the Foundation’s 35th
annual Water Summit Sept. 20 in Sacramento, Camille Pannu,
director of the Water Justice Clinic at UC Davis’ Aoki Center for
Critical Race and Nation Studies, will discuss the complexities
of water system mergers and a program underway in the Central
Valley that has facilitated more than a dozen such mergers.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
We hope you are finding time to take a break this summer to enjoy water — a lake or river or a beautiful water vista — somewhere in California and the Southwest. Western Water is taking a break, as well, while we catch up on other water projects we’ll be publishing later this year.
In the meantime, we wanted to reprise some of our Western Water articles from the past six months — and ask for your feedback.
California’s mountain forests are
the source of 60% of the state’s developed water, but they’re
under siege from climate change, drought, bark beetles and
catastrophic wildfire, including the latest fire sweeping toward
Yosemite National Park.
At the Foundation’s 35th
annual Water Summit Sept. 20 in Sacramento, a panel of
experts will address the breadth of challenges facing the state’s
headwaters, some key scientific research on the forests and
More than a decade in the making, an
ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and
nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of
the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its
authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water
agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for
years to find common ground to address a set of problems that
have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually
unusable for farming.
Controversial flow requirements for
the lower San Joaquin River designed to meet ecological needs of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will be among the topics
addressed during the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water
Summit in Sacramento.
The Foundation’s 35th annual Water
Summit, Facing Reality from the Headwaters to the
Delta, will feature panels on the Delta, the Sierra
Nevada headwaters and the state’s human right to water law.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman will be the
keynote speaker at lunch.