Topic: Central Valley


Central Valley

The Central Valley is a vital agricultural region that dominates the center of California, stretching 40-60 miles east to west and about 450 miles from north to south.  It covers 22,500 square miles, about 13.7% of California’s total land area.

Key watersheds are located here: The Sacramento Valley in the north, San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin to the south. In addition, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers drain their respective valleys and meet to form the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, which flows to the Pacific Ocean via the San Francisco Bay.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow – How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land. … In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: Conservation helps farms survive—and thrive—in drought

Healthy soil is a potent tool to combat the impacts of drought on farms and ranches. By using conservation practices that build healthy soil—like cover cropping, conservation tillage, and compost—growers increase the natural water storage potential of their land. Healthy soil captures more water when it rains and holds onto that water for future crop use, allowing farms with healthy soil to deliver stable yields, even in drought years.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Whitewater rafting from ridgetop to river mouth: seeing the multiple benefits of California water

The forests and meadows of the Sierra Nevada, Coast Range, and Cascade Mountains are the source waters for much of the Sacramento River Basin and the State of California. Healthy headwaters ensure increased water supply reliability and reduced flooding risks, improved water quality, reduced impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increased renewable energy supplies, enhanced habitat, and improved response to climate change and extreme weather.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow: How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land…. In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

US West, already in drought, is facing dwindling snowpacks

The Western US is an empire built on snow. And that snow is vanishing. … That snowmelt, often traveling hundreds of miles from mountain top to tap, sustains the booming desert communities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City — even coastal Los Angeles and San Francisco. … Those dwindling snow levels — a trend that’s extremely unlikely to reverse as temperatures keep rising — will demand hard choices if the 11 states in the Western US are to continue to thrive. So far, responses to the worsening water crisis have not matched the scale of the problem.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse

California scrambles to avoid SGMA fallowing—and another Dust Bowl

The Public Policy Institute of California is sparking new conversations around innovative alternatives to keep farmland in production and avoid devastating environmental and health impacts from fallowing as much as a million acres of land under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. PPIC has embarked on the first major research endeavor to investigate options for keeping farmers farming and for the complex policymaking needed to finance and expedite a suite of farming practices and regulatory restructuring. The hope is it would build some flexibility into California’s highly specialized agricultural system.

Aquafornia news Sierra Club Magazine

Do you know where your water comes from?

It wasn’t until she was 26 and had one degree in environmental science and another in water recycling that Nina Gordon-Kirsch learned where the water in her faucet came from. The Mokelumne River, which carries snowmelt from the Sierras through the Central Valley and out to the San Francisco Bay delta, is surprisingly little-known considering how many lives depend on it.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

In exit, Calif. water official calls for “permanently reducing agriculture”

A top climate strategist with the State of California resigned last month due to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration not steering the state on the necessary path to deal with continual drought. … [Max] Gomberg hasn’t shied away from commentary about the state’s agricultural industry, a sector heavily regulated by his former employing agency. In February, Gomberg tweeted a thanks to progressive Asm. Alex Lee (D–San Jose) for pressing for a wealth tax. In the same missive, he chided Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger) for “carrying water for the state’s agricultural mafia.” Gomberg’s letter and his attack on Newsom came at a welcome sight to the the California Republicans.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Food choices are the real drivers of water usage

960,000 acres of land in California are used to produce alfalfa, using 2 million gallons of water per acre, per year, all of which goes to feed livestock. What kind of livestock? Mostly dairy cows, of which there are 2.5 million in California alone. … It turns out, states [author Richard] Oppenlander, “60 to 70 percent of California water goes to livestock and crops to feed them.” …Once I learned that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, (raising the cow, growing grain for the cow, cleaning the cow) buying non-dairy milk sounds like a much wiser choice. Once I learned that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, giving up meat altogether seems like the only choice.

-Written by Patsy Ouellette, a longtime environmental advocate.​

Aquafornia news Business Insider

Steak costs more these days. Drought may keep prices high for years.

The brown hills of Northern California are peppered with cattle. They spend their days slowly meandering under the sun, munching drought-withered grass. Cattle are California’s fourth-biggest agricultural commodity, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state’s agricultural department. But increasingly dry conditions are making the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone’s ranch was dry for the first time in the 46 years his family has owned it.

Aquafornia news Union Democrat

New Melones Reservoir dips to lowest level in 5 years, federal officials cite ‘unprecedented drought’

New Melones Reservoir, the Golden State’s fourth-largest capacity reservoir, was 70% empty Wednesday — its lowest level in five years — due to the drought described by officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as “unprecedented.” Federal authorities closed the lower boat ramp at Tuttletown Recreation Area in Tuolumne County earlier this month because of the lowering water levels. … On Wednesday, the reservoir was holding 722,889 acre-feet of water, three-tenths of its 2.4 million acre-foot capacity, and it was 70% empty, according to state Department of Water Resources data.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

How compost is helping farmers save water, survive drought

As California grapples with another long drought, cities across the state have implemented curbside collection programs to increase the amount of available water. Composting turns food scraps, sticks and leaves into organic material that is then added to soil to make it more fertile. Robert Reed, spokesperson for Recology, a waste management company, explains compost acts as a natural sponge.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Lawmakers call on Kern stakeholders to engage on water investment

Farmers and water managers may need to do more to engage with lawmakers from outside the Central Valley before the state Legislature can be persuaded to make important investments in water storage and other infrastructure projects, members of Kern’s Sacramento delegation told an audience Tuesday of the Water Association of Kern County. The three locally elected representatives — Assemblyman Vince Fong and state Sens. Shannon Grove and Melissa Hurtado — made the request in the context of their frustration with big-city, coastal lawmakers they said misunderstand how things work in not only the water world but in-state energy production as well.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

USDA partnership to buy California-farmed food amid inflation

The federal government will channel $43 million into efforts to purchase and distribute locally grown food from California’s underserved farmers and producers, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday in Woodland. …Vilsack also highlighted several initiatives that will provide relief to farmers over the coming years. Congress recently provided USDA with $10 billion to distribute to farmers struggling due to climate-related disasters — funds that could be especially useful in the Golden State, where wildfires burn for months every year.

Aquafornia news Successful Farming

Report: Nut farmers expanded as drought deepened in California

As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78%, according to new research by Food & Water Watch. In a brief but critical report issued last week, the climate and consumer advocacy group found that California’s nut farms have grown steadily over the past 12 years, even as the state’s water crisis has deepened. Between 2017 and 2021 alone, almond and pistachio crops expanded so quickly that they required an additional 523 billion gallons of irrigation water.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Billionaire Tom Steyer bets on weather stations to battle climate

Solar-powered weather stations that beam real-time information to farmers are the first investment for Galvanize Climate Solutions, the firm launched last year by billionaire Tom Steyer and Katie Hall to battle climate change. Galvanize led a $40-million funding round for San Francisco-based Arable, whose weather equipment gives farmers information on how much sunlight and water crops are getting, and can help optimize when to irrigate or fertilize. Such visibility is becoming increasingly important amid tight on-farm labor and with drought shrinking water reserves.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Follow the water!

People often have strange ideas about how water works.  Even simple water systems can be confusing.  When water systems become large complex socio-physical-ecological systems serving many users and uses, opportunities for confusion become extreme, surpassing comprehension by our ancient Homo sapien brains. When confused by conflicting rhetoric, using numbers to “follow the water” can be helpful.  The California Water Plan has developed some such numbers.  This essay presents their net water use numbers for 2018, by California’s agricultural, urban, and environmental uses by hydrologic region. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Climate change and drought can be felled by beavers

Millions of highly skilled environmental engineers stand ready to make our continent more resilient to climate change. They restore wetlands that absorb carbon, store water, filter pollution and clean and cool waters for salmon and trout. They are recognized around the world for helping to reduce wildfire risk. Scientists have valued their environmental services at close to $179,000 per square mile annually. And they work for free. Our ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change across the West could be a paddle-tailed rodent: the North American beaver.
-Written by Chris Jordan, mathematical biology and systems monitoring program manager at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center; and Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at Cal State Channel Islands.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

California poised to restrict bee-killing pesticides

Widely used insecticides that harm bees and songbirds would face far-reaching restrictions in California under regulations proposed by the state’s pesticide agency. The new limits would be among the nation’s most extensive for agricultural use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used to kill plant-damaging pests like aphids. The highly potent pesticides have been shown to harm bees, birds and other creatures. Aimed at protecting bees that pollinate crops, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed rules would restrict four closely-related neonicotinoid chemicals: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Despite more stored water than in 2021, California will keep closing spigots

As drought conditions persist and with the potential for another dry winter due to La Niña, some good news: the California State Water Resources Control Board learned Wednesday reservoirs in the northern and central parts of the state have more water than at this time last year. State Water Project reservoirs across Northern and Central California remain below historical averages after three consecutive years of drought. But with a combination of people cutting water use, curtailments, farmers fallowing fields and a focus on storage, the reservoirs in the State Water Project are either above or near where they were last year. 

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Agencies looking to “Plan B” as more San Joaquin Valley towns on brink of going dry and emergency water suppliers are tapped out

Groundwater levels are dropping and domestic wells throughout the San Joaquin Valley are going dry as California’s third year of drought grinds on. That includes entire towns, such as East Orosi and Tooleville in Tulare County, which both went dry last week. It’s bad. But it may get worse. Area water suppliers are “locking down” and may not have enough to share, equipment is in short supply and so are people to get the water to those in need.

Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Drought doesn’t mean fewer mosquitoes

Southern California is experiencing a drought of historic proportions. In fact, some scientists are now referring to this uber-drought as “aridification.”  While droughts are thought of as somewhat temporary, aridification signals a whole new condition, one that Matthew Kirby, a paleoclimatologist and professor at California State University Fullerton, says, could mean living “under a permanent state of water conservation.” Meanwhile, while the summer months can mean mosquitos, a drought doesn’t necessarily mean that their threat is diminished. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s idle cropland may double as water crisis deepens

California’s historic drought may leave the state with the largest amount of empty farmland in recent memory as farmers face unprecedented cuts to crucial water supplies. The size of fields intended for almonds, rice, wine grapes and other crops left unworked could be around 800,000 acres, double the size of last year and the most in at least several decades, said Josue Medellin-Azuara, an associate professor at University of California Merced.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Ban new gas stations? There are better ways for L.A. to ditch fossil fuels

To be clear, there are good reasons to end construction of new gas stations, which, beyond fueling climate change, also have a tendency to become costly environmental cleanup sites themselves. The underground storage tanks they use can contaminate soil and groundwater and pose risks to drinking water supplies for years after they close. A statewide 2021 assessment by the State Water Resources Control Board found 136 improperly abandoned underground fuel storage tank facilities, many of them old gas stations, including a dozen in disadvantaged communities and within 1,000 feet of a municipal water supply well.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Every Californian holds the key to drought response

All Californians play a role in preserving and enhancing our water supplies for a drought-resilient future. California again is in a familiar state of drought, although not all communities are affected equally. Some regions are in extreme water shortage; others are not. We must address these differences. That starts with all Californians understanding where their water comes from and what they can do to use it wisely.
-Written by Steve Welch, general manager of the Contra Costa Water District; and Sandy Kerl, the general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s almond industry poised to adapt to climate change

In California’s fields, farmers are already facing the impacts of climate change every day. They are heading into yet another potentially devastating fire year, and the third year in a row of drought.

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Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: One year later, DWR has provided nearly half a billion in drought relief to communities

A year after receiving funding from the Budget Act of 2021, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has successfully awarded more than $440 million to date in drought relief assistance to small and urban communities to address water supply challenges and help build local resilience. The Budget Act of 2021 allocated $500 million in total drought-relief funds to DWR following extreme dry conditions and Governor Newsom’s statewide drought emergency declaration.

Aquafornia news Produce Blue Book

Agriculture minus three basic things

American agriculture is going to have to do without three things that it has long taken for granted, according to a recent article by Chloe Sorvino, who leads food and agriculture coverage for Forbes. Those things are cheap energy, free water, and a reliable climate…. Permanent crops are obviously more vulnerable than annual ones. If the latter are plowed under or the land for them is fallowed, there is always next year. But trees and vines take a certain number of years to mature and produce. To say that water in California is free is simply not true.

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Aquafornia news KALW - San Francisco

The ‘King Tides’ bringing minor coastal flooding to San Francisco

The National Weather Service has issued an advisory that King Tides will cause minor flooding to coastal areas of the San Francisco shoreline starting Monday night and will continue to Friday, with the highest tide expected after midnight on Thursday. The flooding is expected to begin tonight at 8 p.m. King Tides are the highest predicted tides of the year in a coastal region and normally occur only once or twice a year – when the moon is closest to the earth. The event usually takes place from January to December, but can also take place during the summer.

Aquafornia news Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Blog: Feeling the effects of drought in the Twelfth District

At the San Francisco Fed, we are students of the economy. We monitor ongoing and future risks to the economy, including climate risk. The economic impacts of a changing climate—including the frequency and magnitude of severe weather events—affect each of our three core responsibilities: conducting monetary policy, regulating, and supervising the banking system, and ensuring a safe and sound payment system. … Of course, it’s not just California and Utah grappling with a record drought—impacts are being felt across the Twelfth District. According to the journal Nature Climate Change, the megadrought in the Western United States has produced the region’s driest two decades in at least 1,200 years

Aquafornia news Sierra Club

Blog: Mapping a state’s secret water

To survive this climate-changed future, the state needs to capture those torrents—and the tools to do so are right beneath our feet. In California, hidden under the ground are aquifers that have the capacity to store an estimated 1.3 billion acre-feet of water—26 times all of the state’s reservoirs combined. All California needs to do is guide the floods caused by torrential rainfall into the ground, instead of out to sea. … Here’s the problem: We don’t know where to build this infrastructure. Because we can’t see groundwater, our understanding of it—where it is, which direction it flows, and how it connects to the surface—is limited.

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Aquafornia news J. - Jewish News of Northern California

This ‘water warrior’ is walking 200 miles to trace East Bay water source

Where does your drinking water come from? Berkeley native and self-described “water warrior” Nina Gordon-Kirsch wants you to know. This month, Gordon-Kirsch, 33, is walking roughly 200 miles from her home in Oakland to the headwaters of the Mokelumne River, the source of drinking water for most of the East Bay. She aims to call attention to the knowledge gap between urban residents and their water, a resource she says is taken for granted.

Aquafornia news Olive Oil Times

Blog: Preliminary estimates suggest significant drop in California production

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in California is expected to drop sig­nif­i­cantly in the 2022/23 crop year com­pared with the pre­vi­ous har­vest. According to the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC), which rep­re­sents 90 per­cent of the Golden state’s pro­duc­tion, its mem­bers will pro­duce 1.8 mil­lion gal­lons (8.2 mil­lion liters) in the cur­rent crop year. Previously, OOCC mem­bers com­bined to pro­duce three mil­lion gal­lons (13.6 mil­lion liters) in 2021/22 … [P]ro­duc­ers faced a range of chal­lenges, from high winds dam­ag­ing trees dur­ing blos­som­ing to the state’s unre­lent­ing drought.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Unlocking how juvenile Chinook salmon swim in California rivers

Despite years of study and thousands of research projects, some aspects of the biology of Chinook salmon remain altogether mysterious. One enduring question is how outmigrating salmon smolts behave and swim through our waterways to somehow find their way into the ocean. For example, it has long been noted that salmon ‘shoulder’ (hold on the river’s edge) at certain times along their oceanward journey, and that they tend to school and travel in packs alongside one another. Are they actively swimming through these habitats? Or merely drifting with the currents …?

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Dangerous swimming conditions across NorCal as rivers speed up with snow melt

July is one of the most dangerous months of the year for water rescues, according to Sacramento-area fire departments. Over the last several days, multiple drownings across the region have fire crews urging the community to wear life jackets, especially as temperatures hit triple digits across Northern California. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District responded to 14 water rescues along the American River on Saturday, 13 of the people who were rescued survived and one person died.

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Aquafornia news CNN

Megadrought: As the West runs out of water, property owners and officials find ways around century-old laws

With a megadrought draining water reserves in the West, states are looking for alternatives to handle water rights, many of which were set more than 100 years ago when water supplies were far more abundant. Back then, just posting a sign next to a water diversion was enough to be considered a right, one which could still be honored now. But the climate crisis is now straining those rights. There just isn’t enough water in California to satisfy what’s been allotted on paper.

Aquafornia news E&E News

California lawmaker nabs Natural Resources slot

California’s newest member of Congress will be serving on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Connie Conway, a Republican who represents the 22nd District in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley, got assigned to Natural Resources by House GOP leadership, Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) the ranking member of the committee, announced today. In a statement, Conway said that she understood “the diverse water and energy challenges impacting the livelihoods of Central Valley residents and farmers.” She added that she looked forward to “working with my colleagues to address the drought and rising energy costs by modernizing outdated environmental laws and improving water storage infrastructure.”

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Aquafornia news Pacific Institute

Blog: Ensuring water conservation and efficiency programs are accessible to all—in California and beyond

Californians and others in the Western United States need to save water. This is true now amidst a historic megadrought, and it will continue to be true when this drought ends. But many water conservation and efficiency programs aren’t accessible to low-income households. … Making such programs more widely accessible would both help those struggling to afford their utility bills and save water. Notably, these water savings would occur immediately and into the future, helping provide immediate relief for households, as well as building long-term water resilience and contributing to system-wide affordability. 

Aquafornia news Escalon Times

Waterfowl breeding survey results show steep decrease

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its 2022 waterfowl breeding population survey. The resulting data indicate the overall number of breeding ducks has decreased by 19 percent, including mallards that are the most abundant duck in the survey. … The full Breeding Population Survey Report, which can be found on the CDFW website, indicates the total number of ducks … is 30 percent below the long-term average. The estimated breeding population of mallards decreased from 239,830 in 2019 to 179,390 this year, which is below their long-term average. The decline is attributed to the ongoing drought and the loss of upland nesting habitat for ducks.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California is missing an entire year of rainfall since mid-2019, new figures show

California’s water issues may be complicated. But the rainfall shortage driving the state’s current drought comes down to basic math. … Over the three-year period that ended June 30, most Northern California cities received only about half to two-thirds of their historical average rainfall, according to data that [Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Half Moon Bay] compiled. And each passing year without soaking winter rains has been steadily drying the state out a little more — further dropping reservoirs, parching soils and forests and depleting groundwater.

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Aquafornia news California Policy Center

The Abundance Choice – Part 9: Can reservoirs be part of the solution?

We must immediately differentiate between in-stream reservoirs and off-stream reservoirs. They have distinct attributes. In-stream reservoirs in general are considered far more disruptive. To note just a few of the most obvious problems with in-stream reservoirs, the dam constitutes an immovable blockade of a naturally flowing river, the canyons behind the dam are inundated, and fish swimming upstream cannot reach their spawning grounds. There are nonetheless arguments for some in-stream dams, particularly if they’ve already been built. The Shasta Dam is the prime example …

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California’s drought is dire. But there’s a surprising bright spot that may make this year better than last

The outlook for California’s drought is grim. The first five months of the year have been the driest on record. Snowpack in the mountains, at its usual April 1 peak, was the smallest it’s been in seven years. Reservoirs are hovering near historic lows for the season, including Lake Shasta, the state’s largest. But there’s one, albeit small, bright spot: spring runoff. The water that pours from the mountains to rivers and streams, one of the most important barometers of state water supplies, is up substantially from over a year ago — though still far below normal.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California almond growers are feeling the squeeze

[T]he prospect of harvesting 2.8 billion pounds this year — just shy of the 2.9 billion pounds in 2021 and the record 3.1 billion pounds in 2020 — has industry leaders both excited and worried. That’s because about 1.3 billion pounds of unsold almonds are still sitting in piles at processing and packing facilities. The problem comes at a time when inflation and a historic drought are pushing the costs of production and water supplies to an all-time high, and the price of almonds has fallen to an all-time low of about $2 per pound. It’s a sharp reversal for the industry after four decades of relentless expansion across 1.6 million acres in California’s agricultural Central Valley from Tehama County to southern Fresno County.

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Aquafornia news Public News Service

Bill moves forward to lock more carbon in the soil

California has seen a lot of proposals to reduce carbon emissions; now a plan to scrub existing pollution is moving forward in the Legislature. Assembly Bill 2649, which just passed the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Wednesday, sets a big goal: to remove 60 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year by 2030, all by harnessing nature. Ellie Cohen, CEO of the Climate Center, a statewide advocacy group, said the plan to sequester more carbon in the ground will slow climate change and help the environment. “It helps us to hold more water when it does rain,” Cohen outlined. “It helps to replenish groundwater. It supports biodiversity …”

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Celebrating Reclamation District No. 108’s 150th anniversary

As far back as the 1870s, the people of Reclamation District 108 were faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, but they always seemed to find a resolu­tion to the problem before them. From building levees to corral the mighty Sacramento River, to pumping out millions of gallons of floodwater from the fields, to cre­ating unique irrigation systems to support crop growth, our ancestors uncovered innovative and sustainable solutions that we still use to this day.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Extreme heat, drought will permanently scar California and its social fabric

Unprecedented dryness across the western United States is meeting with increasingly warm temperatures to create climate conditions so extreme that the landscape of California could permanently and profoundly change, a growing number of scientists say. The Golden State’s great drying has already begun to reduce snowpack, worsen wildfires and dry out soils, and researchers say that trend will likely continue, along with the widespread loss of trees and other significant shifts. Some say what’s in store for the state could be akin to the conditions that drove people thousands of years ago to abandon thriving cities in the Southwest and other arid parts of the world as severe drought contributed to crop failures and the crumbling of social norms.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

California dairy uses lots of water. Here’s why it matters.

When we picture California agriculture, we tend to think of almond and citrus orchards and the massive tracts of strawberry and lettuce fields that we can see from the highways dividing the western part of the state from the east. But dairy is, in fact, king. There are an estimated 1.7 million cows living on dairy farms in California, and the industry brought in $7.5 billion in 2020, including $2 billion in export sales. And because most people in the state don’t see the abundance of dairy farms—most of them function like feedlots surrounded by fields of feed crops such as alfalfa and corn growing nearby—they may not be aware of the fact that they use millions of gallons of water a day.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California well water bill survives state Senate committee

A bill which would change the way groundwater wells are approved in California took a step forward Wednesday as it survived a fight in a California state Senate committee. The legislation was introduced by Assemblymember Steve Bennett, Democrat from Ventura, and would change the way new and expanded water wells are approved in California; focusing on areas that are experiencing rapid decline in groundwater reserves.

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Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Composting starts soon in Sacramento County. Here’s what you need to know

Last year, state legislators in California passed a law requiring municipalities to separate organic food waste from other trash. In tangible terms, that means composting is mandated. The law also requires 20% of food that would otherwise be sent to a landfill — like edible food thrown away by a grocery store at the end of the day — be recovered for human consumption by 2025.  … Why was the mandate passed?  The mandate plays a big role in California’s climate goals. Rotting food left in landfills creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas. … Compost is particularly good at retaining water, which could help California farmers during times of drought. 

Aquafornia news Greenbiz

Will water pricing be the next carbon pricing?

The price of water — essential for human life, nature, communities and businesses — is often subsidized, reflecting a commonly held belief that everyone should have abundant access to clean water…. In the Western United States, cutbacks to one of the Southwest’s most important watersheds, the Colorado River, are imminent and possibly economically crushing to farmers … California agriculture lands are straining to access groundwater that used to be plentiful. … Some companies that want to stay one step ahead of the pressing water crisis are adopting strategies that set higher internal prices on water than what they actually pay to their local utility or municipality.  

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Farmers encouraged to participate in pesticide notification workshops

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is hosting a series of public workshops that will inform the design of a Statewide Pesticide Application Notification System. The workshops will be taking place today, tomorrow, and Wednesday via Zoom. Western Agricultural Processors Association President and CEO, Roger Isom has questioned the need for a statewide notification approach. As the pilot programs continue to get underway, Isom noted that it will be important for the agriculture community to engage on the issue.

Aquafornia news Grist

June heat waves smash records across the globe

It’s just a few days into summer, and heat waves have already toppled records across the globe, from the Russian Arctic to the muggy Gulf Coast. With July and August — usually the hottest summer months — still to come, the early extreme heat offers a grim picture of summer’s growing danger. … According to a recent survey, a little more than half of Americans say they have been personally affected by extreme heat. That number is much higher in California, where 71 percent of the survey respondents say it has affected their lives, whether through climbing electricity bills or declining health. After this summer, it may spike higher still.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Chili peppers, coffee, wine: how the climate crisis is causing food shortages

Huy Fong Foods, the southern California company that produces 20m bottles of sriracha annually, has experienced a low inventory of red jalapeño chili peppers in recent years made worse by spring’s crop failure. The cause? Severe weather and drought conditions in Mexico. … California’s record-setting wildfires in 2020 severely affected harvest and the hazardous air quality threatened large portions of the state’s wine grape crop. Napa Valley winemakers are being forced to take extreme action, such as spraying sunscreen on grapes and irrigating with treated wastewater from toilets and sinks, in order to survive – and some vineyards won’t.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s drought means less water to go around. Who is winning the pursuit for water — and who is losing?

After three years of drought, the massive state and federal water projects that serve California’s cities and farms have less water to distribute, forcing water managers to increasingly ration supplies. This year, squeezed extra tight by the prolonged drought conditions, both the state and federal water projects are expecting to deliver mere fractions of what cities and farms are asking for. … Everyone gets less water during a drought. But the breakdowns of the state and federal projects’ water allocations show some groups — particularly farmers who have longtime rights to divert water — faring better than others.

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

California Spent Decades Trying to Keep Central Valley Floods at Bay. Now It Looks to Welcome Them Back
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Floodplain restoration gets a policy and funding boost as interest grows in projects that bring multiple benefits to respond to climate change impacts

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.

Western Water By Alastair Bland

SIDEBAR: Creating A Floodplain Buffet for Salmon Smolts

Biologists have designed a variety of unique experiments in the past decade to demonstrate the benefits that floodplains provide for small fish. Tracking studies have used acoustic tags to show that chinook salmon smolts with access to inundated fields are more likely than their river-bound cohorts to reach the Pacific Ocean. This is because the richness of floodplains offers a vital buffet of nourishment on which young salmon can capitalize, supercharging their growth and leading to bigger, stronger smolts.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Red alert sounding on California drought, as farmers get less water

A government agency that controls much of California’s water supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. The National Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.

Related articles: 

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Meet the Veteran Insider Who’s Shepherding Gov. Newsom’s Plan to Bring Climate Resilience to California Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Former journalist Nancy Vogel explains how the draft California Water Resilience Portfolio came together and why it’s expected to guide future state decisions

Nancy Vogel, director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program, highlights key points in the draft Water Resilience Portfolio last month for the Water Education Foundation's 2020 Water Leaders class. Shortly after taking office in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom called on state agencies to deliver a Water Resilience Portfolio to meet California’s urgent challenges — unsafe drinking water, flood and drought risks from a changing climate, severely depleted groundwater aquifers and native fish populations threatened with extinction.

Within days, he appointed Nancy Vogel, a former journalist and veteran water communicator, as director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program to help shepherd the monumental task of compiling all the information necessary for the portfolio. The three state agencies tasked with preparing the document delivered the draft Water Resilience Portfolio Jan. 3. The document, which Vogel said will help guide policy and investment decisions related to water resilience, is nearing the end of its comment period, which goes through Friday, Feb. 7.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map Gary Pitzer

Bruce Babbitt Urges Creation of Bay-Delta Compact as Way to End ‘Culture of Conflict’ in California’s Key Water Hub
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Former Interior secretary says Colorado River Compact is a model for achieving peace and addressing environmental and water needs in the Delta

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt gives the Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.  Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful, provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Delta tunnels plan.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.


A Bounty of San Joaquin Valley Crops on Display During Central Valley Tour
Act now, our April 3-5 tour is almost sold out!

The San Joaquin Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket, grows a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and other agricultural products.

During our three-day Central Valley Tour April 3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams, reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Despite Risk of Unprecedented Shortage on the Colorado River, Reclamation Commissioner Sees Room for Optimism
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Commissioner Brenda Burman, in address at Foundation’s Water Summit, also highlights Shasta Dam plan

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda BurmanThe 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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  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.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. 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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

As Decision Nears On California Water Storage Funding, a Chairman Reflects on Lessons Learned and What’s Next
WESTERN WATER Q&A: California Water Commission Chairman Armando Quintero

Armando Quintero, chair of the California Water CommissionNew water storage is the holy grail primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014 the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage of Proposition 1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem, water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.

Western Water Space Invaders Gary Pitzer

It’s Not Just Nutria — Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has 185 Invasive Species, But Tracking Them is Uneven
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Delta science panel urges greater coordination, funding of invasive species monitoring

Water hyacinth choke a channel in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.For more than 100 years, invasive species have made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home, disrupting the ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually in remediation.

The latest invader is the nutria, a large rodent native to South America that causes concern because of its propensity to devour every bit of vegetation in sight and destabilize levees by burrowing into them. Wildlife officials are trapping the animal and trying to learn the extent of its infestation.

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta

ON THE ROAD: Park Near Historic Levee Rupture Offers Glimpse of Old Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Big Break Regional Shoreline will be a stop on Bay-Delta Tour May 16-18

Visitors explore a large, three-dimensional map of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Along the banks of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich soil.

That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush, settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape and altering the habitat.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

SPOTLIGHT: Putah Creek, Yuba River and environmental water for fish
Two legal settlements are cited as examples where water was set aside for environmental needs

Lower Yuba RiverDespite the heat that often accompanies debates over setting aside water for the environment, there are instances where California stakeholders have forged agreements to provide guaranteed water for fish. Here are two examples cited by the Public Policy Institute of California in its report arguing for an environmental water right.


Central Valley Tour Offers Unique View of San Joaquin Valley’s Key Dams and Reservoirs
March 14-16 tour includes major federal and state water projects

Get a unique view of the San Joaquin Valley’s key dams and reservoirs that store and transport water on our March Central Valley Tour.

Our Central Valley Tour, March 14-16, offers a broad view of water issues in the San Joaquin Valley. In addition to the farms, orchards, critical habitat for threatened bird populations, flood bypasses and a national wildlife refuge, we visit some of California’s major water infrastructure projects.


San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2017

The 2-day, 1-night tour traveled along the river from Friant Dam near Fresno to the confluence of the Merced River. As it weaved across an historic farming region, participants learn about the status of the river’s restoration and how the challenges of the plan are being worked out.


Enjoy Local Bounty on Our Central Valley Tour
Itinerary includes local restaurants and winery

Our tours are famous for not only being packed with diverse educational opportunities about California water, but showcasing local culture. Our Central Valley Tour on March 8-10 lets you unwind at a few San Joaquin Valley treasures and hear stories that go back generations.


Explore Diverse Wildlife Habitat on Central Valley Tour
See how water is managed in ecologically fragile areas

Our water tours give a behind-the-scenes look at major water issues in California. On our Central Valley Tour, March 8-10, you will visit wildlife habitat areas – some of which are closed to the public – and learn directly from the experts who manage them, in addition to seeing farms, large dams and other infrastructure.


Winter Rain Increases Flows on the San Joaquin River
March Central Valley water tour will analyze drought impacts

The recent deluge has led to changes in drought conditions in some areas of California and even public scrutiny of the possibility that the drought is over. Many eyes are focused on the San Joaquin Valley, one of the areas hardest hit by reduced surface water supplies. On our Central Valley Tour, March 8-10, we will visit key water delivery and storage sites in the San Joaquin Valley, including Friant Dam and Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River.


Go Deep into California’s Breadbasket to Explore Water Issues
First Foundation tour of 2017 traverses the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley has been hit hard by the six-year drought and related surface water cutbacks. Some land has been fallowed and groundwater pumping has increased. What does this year hold? Will these recent heavy storms provide enough surface water for improved water deliveries? 

Your best opportunity to see and understand this vital agricultural region of California is to join us on our annual Central Valley Tour, March 8-10.

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Flood Management


Sacramento's K Street during the 1862 flood that inundated the Central Valley.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.

Aquapedia background


Excess salinity poses a growing threat to food production, drinking water quality and public health. Salts increase the cost of urban drinking water and wastewater treatment, which are paid for by residents and businesses. Increasing salinity is likely the largest long-term chronic water quality impairment to surface and groundwater in California’s Central Valley.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


Restoring a River: Voices of the San Joaquin

This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an overview of the geography and history of the river, historical and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was agreed to.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley

Salt. In a small amount, it’s a gift from nature. But any doctor will tell you, if you take in too much salt, you’ll start to have health problems. The same negative effect is happening to land in the Central Valley. The problem scientists call “salinity” poses a growing threat to our food supply, our drinking water quality and our way of life. The problem of salt buildup and potential – but costly – solutions are highlighted in this 2008 public television documentary narrated by comedian Paul Rodriguez.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.


Delta Warning

15-minute DVD that graphically portrays the potential disaster should a major earthquake hit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. “Delta Warning” depicts what would happen in the event of an earthquake registering 6.5 on the Richter scale: 30 levee breaks, 16 flooded islands and a 300 billion gallon intrusion of salt water from the Bay – the “big gulp” – which would shut down the State Water Project and Central Valley Project pumping plants.


Shaping of the West: 100 Years of Reclamation

30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern day issues.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Maps & Posters Groundwater Education Bundle

California Groundwater Map
Redesigned in 2017

California Groundwater poster map

Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.

Maps & Posters

California Water Map, Spanish

Spanish language version of our California Water Map

Versión en español de nuestro mapa de agua de California


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.


Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management
Updated 2009

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the physical flood control system, including levees; discusses previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores issues of floodplain management and development; provides an overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control projects. 


Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project explores the history and development of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).


Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

Maps & Posters California Water Bundle

California Water Map
Updated December 2016

A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.

Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.

Sea to Sierra Water Tour 2014
Rolling Seminar on California Water Issues (past)

The 2014 tour was held April 10 – 11.

Travel across the state on Amtrak’s famed California Zephyr, from the edge of sparkling San Francisco Bay, through the meandering channels of the Delta, past rich Central Valley farmland, growing cities, historic mining areas and into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Aquapedia background

Floodplains in California

With the dual threats of obsolete levees and anticipated rising sea levels, floodplains—low areas adjacent to waterways that flood during wet years—are increasingly at the forefront of many public policy and water issues in California.

Adding to the challenges, many floodplains have been heavily developed and are home to major cities such as Sacramento. Large parts of California’s valleys are historic floodplains as well.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway is one of four major North American migration routes for birds, especially waterfowl, and extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, to Mexico and South America. Each year, birds follow ancestral patterns as they travel the flyway on their annual north-south migration. Along the way, they need stopover sites such as wetlands with suitable habitat and food supplies. In California, 90 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.

Aquapedia background

Mendota Pool

The Mendota Pool, located at the confluence of the San Joaquin River and Kings River in California’s Central Valley, is the terminus of a long journey for water from the Sacramento River.

After being diverted, the Sacramento River water heads south from the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta via the 117-mile long Delta-Mendota Canal.

Aquapedia background

Environmental Issues and Water

Environmental concerns have closely followed California’s development of water resources since its earliest days as a state.

Early miners harnessed water to dislodge gold through hydraulic mining. Debris resulting from these mining practices washed down in rivers and streams, choking them and harming aquatic life and causing flooding.

Aquapedia background

Central Valley Wetlands and Riparian Habitat

In the Central Valley, wetlands—partly or seasonally saturated land that supports aquatic life and distinct ecosystems— provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Western Water Magazine

Meeting the Co-equal Goals? The Bay Delta Conservation Plan
May/June 2013

This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying California’s long-term water supply reliability.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Western Water Magazine

Small Water Systems, Big Challenges
May/June 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines the challenges facing small water systems, including drought preparedness, limited operating expenses and the hurdles of complying with costlier regulations. Much of the article is based on presentations at the November 2007 Small Systems Conference sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and the California Department of Water Resources.

Western Water Magazine

It Can Happen Here: Assessing California’s Flood Risk
November/December 2005

This issue of Western Water examines the extent to which California faces a disaster equal to or greater than the New Orleans floods and the steps being taken to recognize and address the shortcomings of the flood control system in the Central Valley and the Delta, which is of critical importance because of its role in providing water to 22 million people. Complicating matters are the state’s skyrocketing pace of growth coupled with an inherently difficult process of obtaining secure, long-term funds for levee repairs and continued maintenance.

Western Water Magazine

Flood Management 2004: A System in Peril
September/October 2004

This issue of Western Water analyzes northern California’s extensive flood control system – it’ history, current concerns, the Paterno decision and how experts are re-thinking the concept of flood management.