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 Mercury News

Will this winter’s megastorms end the Bay Area’s toxic algae problem?

In recent years, thick layers of cyanobacteria—commonly known as blue-green algae—have closed popular local swimming spots Lake Anza and Lake Temescal for weeks at a time. Last summer, a toxic algae bloom in the San Francisco Bay killed thousands of fish. Although algae is always present in some quantity in lakes and the bay, higher temperatures, stagnant water, and excessive nutrient levels can cause the algae to multiply. If the particular species has toxins in it, such as blue-green algae or the Heterosigma akashiwo species that bloomed in the bay last summer, the water can become unsafe for humans and animals. Algae blooms and cyanobacteria have become state and nationwide problems. In the Bay Area, water managers were beginning to wonder if the extreme drought conditions of recent years had pushed the problem into a dangerous new phase in local waters.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Study offers insights on nitrate contamination

With California enduring record-breaking rain and snow and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently easing restrictions on groundwater recharge, interest in “managed aquifer recharge” has never been higher. This process – by which floodwater is routed to sites such as farm fields so that it percolates into the aquifer – holds great promise as a tool to replenish depleted groundwater stores across the state. But one concern, in the agricultural context, is how recharge might push nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater supply. Consumption of well water contaminated with nitrates has been linked to increased risk of cancers, birth defects and other health impacts.

Aquafornia news NPR

In California, leafy greens farmers both suffered from floods and welcomed the water

Most of the country’s lettuce and other leafy greens come from California’s Salinas Valley, where 13 atmospheric rivers this winter have obliterated local drought conditions. Farmers have welcomed the water and also sometimes struggled with the deluge. Reporter Amy Mayer has this look at what it all means for spring salads. AMY MAYER, BYLINE: Andrew Regalado and his father trudge through sticky mud on the edge of a field at World’s Finest Farm in Hollister, Calif. They’ve owned the organic vegetable and herb farm for about 17 years. In a creek bed just beyond the field, cloudy brown water leaps at the banks, and that’s days after floodwaters have mostly receded. Another storm is coming. ANDREW REGALADO: If this water’s still here, there’s a good chance we might get flooded again. Yeah, so it’ll be a tough year.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: Winter storms allow state water project to move and store additional water

The series of storms that have hit California since the beginning of the year is translating to additional water for millions of Californians. The State Water Project is proactively working to move and store as much of the surplus water from these storms as possible. The State Water Project (SWP) is making additional water available to its contractors (public agencies and local water districts) that have the ability to take delivery of the water in their own system, including through groundwater recharge. Known as “Article 21 water,” this water does not count toward formal SWP allocation amounts. This water is available only under certain conditions: when there is no place to store this water in the SWP reservoirs; when there is a demand for this water from the south of Delta contractors above their allocated amount; and when there is available pumping and conveyance capacity within the SWP.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Groundwater recharge benefits Roseville, Region

Our water managers have been investing in groundwater infrastructure for the past two decades, and with consistent investments, we’re now seeing the fruits of our labor. During the recent severe weather conditions, we replenished the groundwater basin and stored surface water for future use, thanks to our Aquifer Storage and Recovery investments. In just the first week of March, we banked 44 million gallons of water and doubled that amount this week. With 88 million gallons of banked water, it can supply about 732 homes annually. We’ve been saving water like this for a while now. In fact, this past January, we saved enough water to supply 1,000 homes annually. And a year ago, we had surplus surface water and stored a significant amount, equivalent to 160 Olympic-sized pools. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore breadth & depth of the ‘nation’s breadbasket’ on the Central Valley Tour April 26-28

California’s climate whiplash has been on full display in the San Joaquin Valley this winter as the region has shifted from managing three years of drought impacts to enduring widespread flooding following a series of intense atmospheric rivers. Our Central Valley Tour at the end of April is your best opportunity to understand both the challenges and opportunities of water management in the region. The 3-day, 2-night tour tour weaves around and across the entire valley to give you a firsthand look at farms, wetlands and major infrastructure such as Friant Dam in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Fresno and San Luis Reservoir in the Coastal Range near Los Banos, the nation’s largest off-stream reservoir and a key water facility serving both the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Aquafornia news Stormwater Solutions

Study confirms nitrate can release uranium into groundwater

New research experimentally confirms that nitrate can help transport naturally occurring uranium from the underground to groundwater, according to a press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The new research backs a 2015 study led by Karrie Weber of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The 2015 showed that aquifers contaminated with high levels of nitrate — including the High Plains Aquifer residing beneath Nebraska — also contain uranium concentrations far exceeding a threshold set by the U.S. EPA. Uranium concentrations above that EPA threshold have been shown to cause kidney damage in humans, especially when regularly consumed via drinking water.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increases water allocations for 2023

The Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday water allocations to the Central Valley Project will increase thanks to the incredible amount of rain and snow the state has received. The initial allocation issued Feb. 22 was conservative due to below-average precipitation in February, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The increase is due to the persistent wet weather that dominated the end of February and almost all of March. The atmospheric river events have greatly boosted reservoir levels, including the two main reservoirs in the state north and south of the delta – Shasta and San Luis, respectively. … The latest allocations raised irrigation water service to 80% from 35% of their contract total, and municipal and industrial water service to 100% from 75% of their historic use.

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Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: Repurposing cropland in California: a solution for everyone?

[A]gricultural practices, especially in California, must be updated to survive the future. One powerful change that is growing momentum is strategic cropland repurposing. Doing cropland repurposing right can benefit many, including landowners. … Cropland retirement has direct negative effects on agricultural revenues and farmworker employment, with ripple effects in other sectors that depend on agriculture (such as transportation and agricultural services). But cropland retirement also means a decrease in pesticide, synthetic fertilizers, and water use that can bring significant environmental and local public health benefits. How do we weigh these scenarios and decide if cropland repurposing makes sense?

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

House panel hones in on Calif.’s lackluster water storage

Tuesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources discussed the increased need for water storage in California and the rest of the western United States given the highly above average precipitation after years of drought.  The Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries held a hearing on long-term drought and the water storage issues throughout the reasons to discuss the situation and possible solutions. … Bourdeau, the Vice Chair of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority … [and] a director for Westlands Water District … noted that farmers throughout the Central Valley have spent billions of dollars to put drip irrigation systems in place, among other water-saving measures, to go along with the conservation efforts from municipal water users. But without proper water storage solutions, the nation’s future could be imperil if the Valley’s food production wanes. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

It’s a bad year for California salmon. Here’s how it hurts the economy and environment

State officials were supposed to take a conservative approach to approving salmon fishing season this year — and they did. California’s fishing season had been scheduled to open April 1. Instead, as a result of low salmon projections, the season has been canceled. Salmon provides more to the state than meets the eye. … According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, salmon numbers are irregular during the three year life cycle. Data has shown that in years following wetter seasons fish stock has increased. Consequently there has been a decline in stock for years following drier seasons.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: This drought is dead – long live the drought

Floods and droughts are not opposites and can occur simultaneously. This occurs often in California and is especially well-illustrated this year. Floods, droughts, and water scarcity are different. Floods are too much water at a place and time, and we would often pay to reduce the water present at that location and moment. Droughts and water scarcity represent too little water at a place and time, meaning we would often pay to increase its availability. We highlight these differences because people tend to view such conditions through an unrealistic zero-sum lens. This essay uses this year’s experience to examine how floods, drought, and water scarcity differ, can occur in the same year, and how droughts might end, but leave legacies. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Monday Top of the Scroll: Gov. Newsom relaxed water restrictions in drenched California. Why didn’t he end the drought emergency?

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday relaxed drought rules in California amid a winter season filled with atmospheric river storms, flooding and a massive Sierra Nevada snowpack — and officials signaled that an end to the declared drought emergency in the Bay Area and many other regions is coming soon. At an appearance at a groundwater recharge project in Yolo County, Newsom announced the end of state regulations he put in place last March that required cities and water agencies to impose water restrictions such as limits on the number of days a week residents could water lawns and landscaping. … Due to brimming reservoirs and the big snowpack, the state Department of Water Resources also announced Friday that it will increase water deliveries through the State Water Project, which serves 27 million people, from 35% of  requested amounts to 75%, a number that could still increase further in May and June.

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Aquafornia news California Agriculture News Today

Study offers insights on reducing nitrate contamination from groundwater recharge

With California enduring record-breaking rain and snow and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently easing restrictions on groundwater recharge, interest in “managed aquifer recharge” has never been higher. This process – by which floodwater is routed to sites such as farm fields so that it percolates into the aquifer – holds great promise as a tool to replenish depleted groundwater stores across the state. But one concern, in the agricultural context, is how recharge might push nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater supply. Consumption of well water contaminated with nitrates has been linked to increased risk of cancers, birth defects and other health impacts.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Battered California faces billions in storm damage to crops, homes and roads

The costs of California’s relentless winter storms keep rising. And outside of the human toll — with at least 28 people killed since January — the price will be measured in billions. The “bomb cyclone” that lashed San Francisco on Tuesday was the latest in an epic series of extreme weather events to hit California since New Year’s Eve. It blew out windows from skyscrapers, flung barges into a historic bridge, sent trees tumbling across roads, knocked down power lines, and threatened a major freeway as the waterlogged hillside beneath it started to collapse….The price tag for all this mayhem — road repairs, damaged homes, lost crops — won’t become clear for months. But the early estimates are sobering.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Save the date! Our annual Open House is on May 4th

Join us May 4 for an open house and reception at our office near the Sacramento River to meet our team and learn more about what we do to educate and foster understanding of California’s most precious natural resource — water. At the open house, you can enjoy refreshments and chat with our team about our tours, conferences, maps, publications and training programs for teachers and up-and-coming water industry professionals. You’ll also be able to learn more about how you can support our work – and you’ll have a chance to win prizes! The open house will be held in the late afternoon on May 4. More details and a sign-up are coming soon!

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Is California still in a drought? Map shows latest conditions ahead of more rain, snow

For the first time in more than two years, much of the southwest portion of California is free of both drought and “abnormally dry” conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties are drought-free. San Diego and Los Angeles counties, although they show improvement in the last seven days, haven’t completely shaken “abnormal dry” and “moderate drought” statuses. The bird’s eye view: Every week, California moves further away from its once drought-stricken conditions. Most of the central Sierra, foothills, Central Valley and the entire coast have exited drought conditions. Roughly 64% of the state is drought-free.

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Aquafornia news Smithsonian Magazine

Are floating solar panels the future of clean energy production?

Floating solar panels placed on reservoirs around the world could generate enough energy to power thousands of cities, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature Sustainability. Called floating photovoltaic systems, or “floatovoltaics,” these solar arrays function the same way as panels on land, capturing sunlight to generate electricity. … The new research shows this buoyant technology has the potential to create vast amounts of power and conserve water—without taking up precious space on land. … A handful of countries are already answering that question by using floating solar panels in a limited capacity… California plans to test a similar idea in which solar panels will be placed above irrigation canals.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore drought-to-deluge impacts & opportunities on Central Valley Tour

The feast or famine nature of California water has never been more apparent than now. After three years of punishing drought, the state has been slammed by a dozen atmospheric rivers. On our Central Valley Tour next month, you will see the ramifications of this nature in action. Focusing on the San Joaquin Valley, the tour will bring you up close to farmers, cities and disadvantaged communities as well as managers trying to capture flood waters to augment overpumped groundwater basins while also protecting communities from damaging flood impacts. Despite the recent rains, the San Joaquin Valley most years deals with little to no water deliveries for agricultural irrigation and wetland habitat management. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Forget all the rain and snow, California is still short of water

During a winter of blizzards, floods and drought-ending downpours, it’s easy to forget that California suffers from chronic water scarcity — the long-term decline of the state’s total available fresh water. This rainy season’s inundation isn’t going to change that. … It’s all about groundwater. It is the long-term disappearance of groundwater that is the major driver behind the state’s steady decline in total available fresh water, which hydrologists define as snowpack, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater combined. … The gains made during wet years simply can’t offset the over-pumping during the dry years in between. In fact, the state’s groundwater deficit is now so large that it will never be fully replenished.
-Written by Jay Famiglietti, a global futures professor at Arizona State University. ​

Aquafornia news NPR

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Why California’s drought won’t really end, even though it’s raining

The state has been deluged by storms this winter, hit by 12 atmospheric rivers that have led to evacuation orders, rising rivers and broken levees. In some parts of the Sierra Nevada, more than 55 feet of snow have fallen. With reservoirs filling up, many Californians are eager to put the severe, 3-year drought behind them. A major water supplier in Southern California recently lifted mandatory conservation rules that limited outdoor watering. Large parts of the state are now free of drought, according to the federal government’s Drought Monitor, which looks at rainfall and soil moisture. But in California, water shortages aren’t just due to a lack of rain, and the state’s chronic water problems are far from over.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Here’s why farm water use reports are exaggerated

You may have heard it repeatedly through local and national news outlets or from organizations critical of California’s agricultural water use. At the height of a historic drought in 2015, for example, The Washington Post published a report titled “Agriculture is 80% of water use in California.” And a 2022 report by Food and Water Watch, titled “These industries are sucking up California’s water and worsening drought,” again noted that, “in California, 80% of our water goes toward agriculture.” Really? Before we explain just how much that 80% figure is taken out of context, this fact is worth noting: Water for farmers in California produces by far America’s largest food supply, including staples that are affordable, safe, nutritious and essential for our daily lives.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California faces more flooding after strong Pacific storm

A strong late-season Pacific storm that brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California was blamed for two deaths and forecasters said additional flooding was possible Wednesday in parts of the state. Tuesday’s storm focused most of its energy on central and southern parts of the state, bringing threats of heavy runoff and mountain snowfall. In the north, intense hail was reported in Sacramento, the state capital. Locally heavy rain and snowmelt may cause flooding Wednesday in southern California and central Arizona, the National Weather Service warned.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Observations on a modern water rights system in the Sacramento Valley

With the discussions surrounding the modernization of our water system in California for both wetter and drier years, including the water rights system, we offer the following observations from the Sacramento Valley to help bring some focus to the conversations: California’s water rights system is foundational to our state’s water management system for cities and rural communities, farms, fish and wildlife, hydropower and recreation—thus our economy and environment are dependent upon the orderly exercise of the water rights system and we are all invested in its success. … California’s existing water rights structure and system are working in the Sacramento Valley to serve water for multiple benefits, including cities and rural communities, farms and ranches, fish and wildlife, recreation, and hydropower. 

Aquafornia news Center for Watershed Sciences

Blog: New Lund endowment will support next generation of water management leaders

Jay Lund, Vice Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, and his wife Jean Lund have made a historic donation of $800,000 to the Center for Watershed Sciences. This large and generous gift will support graduate students to engage in interdisciplinary water research, pursue their own interests, and think creatively about how to tackle major water problems. Water management is a critical part of any society, and UC Davis is uniquely situated to address water challenges in California and across the globe. UC Davis is also an ideal setting for hands-on, collaborative learning, such that new generations of water professionals are trained across multiple disciplines and in novel ways.

Aquafornia news Reuters

Explainer: What California’s atmospheric rivers mean for drought, floods, fires

California has experienced an exceptionally wet winter with 11 atmospheric rivers battering the state since late December. A twelfth such storm is due to land on Tuesday, threatening to cause even more flooding, landslides and road closures. Atmospheric rivers are vast airborne currents of dense moisture carried aloft for hundreds of miles from the Pacific and funneled over land to fall as bouts of heavy rain and snow. Here’s what such storms mean for the near and long term. California has received 147% of average rainfall so far this season, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: As drought retreats across California, flood risk rises

Though California may be ending its winter with quenched reservoirs and near record snowpack, meteorologists are warning that the state will face increased flooding risk in the coming months as Sierra Nevada snowmelt fills rivers and streams. On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s spring flood outlook reported that drought conditions will continue to improve in much of the state, but the potential for flooding will worsen in the face of heavy snowpack and elevated soil moisture. … The severity of that flooding remains to be seen, however, and depends on a variety of weather factors, experts say. … Potential triggers for rapid snowmelt could be an early season heat wave or another series of warm storms, Swain said …

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Aquafornia news The Weather Channel

How recent floods will recharge California groundwater

The State Water Resources Control Board has approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River so they can percolate down to aquifers. The plan would divert 600,000 acre feet of water — or more than the 191 billion gallons supplied to the city of Los Angeles each year. … Newsom also has signed an executive order temporarily lifting regulations and setting clear conditions for diverting floodwater without permits to recharge groundwater storage. Groundwater accounts for as much as 60% of California’s water supply during dry times. The aquifers usually refill when rain and floodwater percolates through the soil and into the basins. As California’s drought lingered, the basins weren’t recharging.

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Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: California salmon ocean fishing season cancelled to help fish recover

On March 10, officials in California made the difficult yet pragmatic decision to cancel … ocean salmon commercial or sport fishing off California’s coast until April 2024. In the Sacramento and Klamath rivers, Chinook salmon numbers have approached record lows due to recent drought conditions. … Right now, we believe that the commercial salmon fishing ban is what our salmon need to ensure population numbers do not dip to unrecoverable lows. As we look to future population resiliency, there are so many other things these fish need, and our teams are working hard to make them happen. CalTrout works from ridge top to river mouth to get salmon populations unassisted access to each link in the chain of habitats that each of their life stages depends on.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Restore California’s floodplains to capture more stormwater

The southern Sierra Nevada is covered with the deepest snowpack in recorded history, and the rest of the range is not far behind. When all that snow melts, where will it go? You can read the answer in the landscape of the Central Valley. To the eye it is nearly flat, covered by layers of gravel, silt and clay washed from the mountains over the eons by rain and melting snow. … The solution is shockingly simple, relatively cheap — compared with the cost of cataclysmic floods — and surprisingly non-controversial. We just haven’t yet done it on the scale that’s needed. California needs to restore its floodplains. Not the whole valley floors, and not as they were in the pre-development era. But it needs to have many more acres of land reserved for floodwater.

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Aquafornia news The Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Why rain-on-snow floods from atmospheric rivers could get much worse

California’s latest atmospheric rivers are sending rainfall higher into the mountains and onto the state’s crucial snowpack. The rain alone is a problem for low-lying areas already dealing with destructive flooding, but the prospect of rain on the deep mountain snow has triggered widespread flood warnings. When rain falls on snow, it creates complex flood risks that are hard to forecast. Those risks are also rising with climate change. For much of the United States, storms with heavy rainfall can coincide with seasonal snow cover. When that happens, the resulting runoff of water can be much greater than what is produced from rain or snowmelt alone. The combination has resulted in some of the nation’s most destructive and costly floods, including the 1996 Midwest floods and the 2017 flood that damaged California’s Oroville Dam.
-Written by Keith Musselman, an assistant professor in geography, mountain hydrology and climate change at the University of Colorado Boulder. ​

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Storm flood: Can California aid those the feds exclude?

It was late Friday morning when muddy, brown water started rushing onto Michelle Hackett’s Salinas Valley farms. On one side of her family’s Riverview Farms cannabis business, a county-mandated retention pond overflowed. Next door, a farm abandoned by another grower — one of dozens of cannabis businesses to shut down in Monterey County in recent years — spawned another small river headed straight for Hackett and her skeleton crew. … Cannabis businesses like Hackett’s —  along with thousands of undocumented farmworkers and the area’s unhoused residents — fear they’ll be left to fend for themselves as yet another winter storm batters California’s Central Coast, local officials and advocates say. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: SoCal sees record rainfall as storm brings flooding, evacuations and power outages in NorCal

California’s 11th atmospheric river storm of the season barreled through a beleaguered state this week, dropping more rain and snow, sending thousands scrambling for higher ground and leaving more than 300,000 without power. The rain was expected to continue into Wednesday across Southern California, which saw rainfall records Tuesday. … The storm arrives amid near-record snowpack and one of California’s wettest winters in recent memory. Nine back-to-back atmospheric river storms hit the state in late December and early January, and a 10th deluged the state last week. Though conditions are expected to clear after the storm, the relief will be short-lived as yet another atmospheric river has set its sights on California next week, forecasters said — just in time for the first day of spring.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

No California salmon: Fishery to be shut down this year

In response to crashing Chinook populations, a council of West Coast fishery managers plans to cancel this year’s salmon season in California, which will put hundreds of commercial fishermen and women out of work in Northern California and turn the summer into a bummer for thousands of recreational anglers. …The Pacific Fishery Management Council announced March 10 that it is choosing between three fishing season alternatives. Each would close the 2023 season, with the possibility of a reopening in 2024. The final decision will come during a session that begins April 1.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

How do Sacramento atmospheric river storms compare to January?

“Atmospheric river storm” is becoming part of Californians’ everyday vocabulary in 2023. Kicking off the year, these systems have been unrelenting. Floods, broken levees and record rain have berated communities across the state. There have been not one, two or five of these storms this year — but at least 10, the National Weather Service told The Bee. A silver lining: Drought conditions have improved dramatically. In Sacramento, the most notorious of these storms hit in early January, with the latest round the first two weeks of March.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California to store San Joaquin River floods as groundwater

Fresno County’s newest large-scale water storage project is happening below ground. With California inundated by rain and snow, state and federal water regulators hatched a plan to help replenish underground aquifers further depleted by heavy agriculture pumping during the recent drought. In an agreement announced last week, more than 600,000 acre-feet of floodwater from the San Joaquin River system will be diverted and allowed to soak back into the earth in areas with permeable soils and wildlife refuges. How much water is 600,000 acre-feet? Enough to overflow Millerton Lake, which stores 520,000 acre-feet at capacity. Or enough to meet the annual needs of more than 1 million average households.

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Aquafornia news Grist

How rising temperatures are intensifying California’s atmospheric rivers

California is no stranger to big swings between wet and dry weather. The “atmospheric river” storms that have battered the state this winter are part of a system that has long interrupted periods of drought with huge bursts of rain — indeed, they provide somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of all precipitation on the West Coast.  The parade of storms that has struck California in recent months has dropped more than 30 trillion gallons of water on the state, refilling reservoirs that had sat empty for years and burying mountain towns in snow. But climate change is making these storms much wetter and more intense, ratcheting up the risk of potential flooding in California and other states along the West Coast. 

Aquafornia news Growing Produce

California’s blueprint for ag growth rooted in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The atmospheric rivers that flowed over California in January dumped about a foot of rain — equal to an entire year’s average — in many parts of the state’s parched Central Valley, which encompasses only 1% of U.S. farmland but produces 40% of the nation’s table fruits, vegetables, and nuts. With February, ordinarily the second wettest month, still to be counted, talks of all the land that will have to fallowed as a result of the drought have quieted for now. But most Golden State growers have come to realize that droughts will simply be a part of farming going forward, and the safety net is gone. That safety net was groundwater pumping. For more than a half-century, farmers in the Central Valley, the multi-faceted state’s chief production area, have been pumping more water from aquifers than can be replenished, causing wells to be drilled deeper and deeper.

Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Low Sacramento River salmon forecast to close ocean salmon fishing

Federal officials have proposed closing commercial chinook salmon fishing off the coast of California over concerns for expected low numbers of fall-run chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento River this year. The Pacific Fishery Management Council announced its three alternatives for recreational and commercial fishing Friday. Ocean recreational fishing from the Oregon-California border to the U.S.-Mexico border will be closed in all three proposals, “given the low abundance forecasts for both Klamath and Sacramento River fall chinook.” the council said in a news release issued Friday. Commercial salmon fishing off the coast of California also will be closed, the council said. Ocean fishing restrictions were also announced for Oregon and Washington.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Atmospheric river-fueled storm arrives in California. Here’s which areas will be in the bull’s-eye

California is once again bearing the brunt of inclement weather, as a low-pressure system off the coast rapidly intensifies and becomes a storm, tapping into another atmospheric river that’s flowing between Hawaii and California. The storm that started Monday night is forecast to raise powerful winds along the coast that will spread to all corners of the Bay Area, Central Coast and Central Valley and peak just before sunrise on Tuesday. These winds will ferry heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and the risk for more flooding across most of the California coast and eventually Southern California. 

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Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

Blog: Ducks Unlimited’s California projects show why wetlands can help with floods

Before Californians built a network of levees and dams to keep cities from flooding, the rivers that formed the Central Valley each winter would spill out of their channels. In the wettest years, they’d flood to form a massive inland sea that stretched hundreds of miles from Redding to Bakersfield. In wet winters such as this one, those rivers keep trying to form that massive seasonal wetland again, testing the strength of the levees that protect communities built on the state’s floodplains. Along two of the state’s most flood-prone rivers, Ducks Unlimited has been working to create wetlands that use those natural flood patterns to create vital habitat for waterbirds and wildlife. The projects highlight why Californians should look to wetland expansion as one of the solutions to help reduce the risks from future floods.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Oroville Dam floodgates opened as storms fill massive reservoir

In another sign that the drought is ending across much of California, state water officials opened the floodgates at Oroville Dam on Friday to let water out of the state’s second-largest reservoir to reduce the risk of flooding to downstream communities. … At noon, water began cascading down the huge concrete spillway for the first time in four years. On Friday, Oroville reservoir was 75% full — or 115% of its historical average for early March. It has risen 180 feet since Dec. 1, and continued to expand steadily with millions of gallons of water pouring in from recent storms.

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Aquafornia news CNN

Monday Top of the Scroll: Another atmospheric river is coming for California, where neighborhoods already are flooded and hundreds are in shelters

Still reeling from storms that inundated neighborhoods, forced rescues and damaged roads, storm-battered California is bracing for another atmospheric river that threatens even more flooding Monday. More than 17 million people remain under flood watches across California and Nevada early Monday as the storm makes its menacing approach – the 11th atmospheric river to hit the West this winter season. The new storm, arriving on the heels of another atmospheric river, could exacerbate flooding and damage in some places. Already, those in the central and northern parts of California are crowding into shelters and dealing with flooded neighborhoods, along with mudslides, dangerous rushing rivers, collapsed bridges and unusable roads.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

The health risks of California’s flood waters, explained

With heavy rain and snow comes flooding risks and all that flood water could be harmful to people’s health. “They can carry sewage and sewage runoff, they can carry chemicals. Those are industrial and also household,” said Jason Wilken, epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California Department of Public Health. Flood waters carry the risk of damaging property and impacting people’s health. “You could have things like gasoline, paint thinners, other chemicals mixed in (the waters),” said Wilken. Flood waters are typically muddy and hard to see through. It could cause people to slip or fall. Other things could also be lurking under the water as well.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Weather provides mixed bag for Butte County agriculture

Winter storms this year have created hope for many Californians suffering from years of drought but for agriculture, it’s more complicated. More water means crops will be well provided for, but additional weather trends create new hazards for orchards, especially during this year’s almond bloom which requires some consistency in temperature and sunlight. Colleen Cecil, executive director for the Butte County Farm Bureau, said almonds have likely been impacted the most by the weather events, especially since the trees are still in bloom.

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Coalition issues intent to sue state water board over order to suspend water quality protections

A coalition of environmental groups – the California Water Impact Network, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and AquAlliance – have submitted a notice of intent to sue the State Water Resources Control Board unless it rescinds an order to suspend water quality and fish protections in California rivers and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, according to a coalition press release. The Board’s order was issued following a decision by Governor Gavin Newsom to retain water in state reservoirs to ensure future deliveries for Central Valley agriculture. The order constituted an end-run around state and federal legal requirements to maintain adequate water quality and temperature conditions for salmon below dams.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: California lowering dam water levels, warns of flood threat as storm hits

With back-to-back storms to hit California in the coming days, state officials are scrambling to make strategic releases from key reservoirs in hopes of preventing a repeat of the flooding that killed nearly two dozen people in January. At least 10 rivers are forecast to overflow from the incoming “Pineapple Express” storm, which is expected to drop warm, heavy, snow-melting rain as it moves from the Central Coast toward the southern Sierra beginning Thursday night into Saturday. Among them are rivers that flooded at the start of the year, when nine atmospheric river storms pummeled the state. The waterways include the Cosumnes River near Sacramento, where more than a dozen levee breaches sent floodwaters onto roadways and low-lying areas, trapping drivers and contributing to at least three deaths along Highway 99.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: New storm could bring more peril to California rivers already hit by deadly flooding

A powerful storm barreling toward California from the tropical Pacific threatens to trigger widespread river flooding throughout the state as warm rain melts a record accumulation of snowpack and sends runoff surging down mountains and into streams and reservoirs. Although state officials insist they are prepared to manage runoff from what is now the 10th atmospheric river of a deadly rainy season, at least one expert described the combination of warm rain, epic snowpack and moist soils as “bad news.” … Already, the National Weather Service is warning residents that a number of rivers could surge beyond their flood stage, inundating nearby roads and properties. Likewise, some reservoir managers have already begun releasing water in anticipation of heavy inflows through the weekend.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Visit groundwater’s epicenter on April Central Valley Tour; check out groundwater resources

Explore the epicenter of groundwater sustainability on our Central Valley Tour April 26-28 and engage directly with some of the most important leaders and experts in water storage, management and delivery, agriculture, habitat, land use policy and water equity. The tour focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, which has struggled with consistently little to no surface water deliveries and increasing pressure to reduce groundwater usage to sustainable levels while also facing water quality and access challenges for disadvantaged communities. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater expert Thomas Harter, Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis, the tour explores topics such as subsidence, water supply and drought, flood management, groundwater banking and recharge, surface water storage, agricultural supply and drainage, wetlands and more. Register here!

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California braces for flooding, snowmelt from a warm atmospheric river set to slam state

Another atmospheric river system has set its sights on California, raising considerable concern about flooding and structural damage as warm rain is expected to fall atop the state’s near-record snowpack this week, forecasters say. … Last week, the odds of such a system developing were about 20%. By Monday, the chances had increased to “7 or 8 out of 10, if not higher, for a warm atmospheric river event of some magnitude,” [UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain] said. At least one more storm could follow this month. … Officials said the bounty made a dent in the state’s extreme drought conditions and offered some hope for strained water supplies after three bone-dry years. But heavy snowpack can also become a hazard if it meets with warm rain that melts it too quickly.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Flowing water is not wasted. How healthy rivers help people

It’s a familiar scenario: Rising rivers are pinched off from the flood plains that could have spread, slowed and stored the sudden abundance of water. Floodwaters break through levees and leave destruction and heartbreaking loss in their wake. Renewed frustration and fury enter the public dialogue about “wasted” water. … River managers use the term “environmental flows” to describe the water that’s allowed to stay in rivers to nurture the ecosystem, as opposed to water diverted or stored for farms, cities or hydropower. While I worked at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, we dove in deep on environmental flows, calculating an environmental flow management strategy for every major tributary to the San Joaquin River, which nourishes the valley that bears its name. 
-Written by Ann Willis, California Regional Director for American Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and protecting rivers across the country.

Aquafornia news Vox

Who’s really using up the water in the American West?

The Western United States is currently battling the most severe drought in thousands of years. A mix of bad water management policies and manmade climate change has created a situation where water supplies in Western reservoirs are so low, states are being forced to cut their water use. It’s not hard to find media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas. But when a team of researchers looked at water use in the West, they uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes. Only 14 percent of all water consumption in the Western US goes to residential, commercial, and industrial water use. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Central Valley farmworkers struggle to recover after floods

In 1910, the Los Angeles real estate developer J. Harvey McCarthy decided that this small agricultural town in the Central Valley would be his “city beautiful,” a model community and an automobile stop along the road to Yosemite. An infusion of money brought Planada a bank, hotel, school, church and its own newspaper, the Planada Enterprise, by the following year. A celebration for the town’s first anniversary drew an estimated 10,000 people (though Planada had only several hundred residents) as the city had become the best-known place in Merced County. But McCarthy eventually abandoned the community, located nine miles east of Merced, leaving its settlers to pick up the pieces. It remained a farming town and is now home to 4,000 mostly low-income and Spanish-speaking residents who work at nearby orchards.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California could get hit with new atmospheric river this week, and consequences could be concerning

Northern California could be in for a new atmospheric river storm by the end of the week, potentially blasting the Bay Area with substantial rain, and the Sierra with even more heavy snow, but likely not as fierce as the wet storms that wreaked damage across the region at the start of the year, forecasters say…. Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the Nature Conservancy, said Sunday evening that an atmospheric river could be a concern regarding the state’s snowpack, which on Friday reached its highest level this century for the start of March. Such rain-on-snow events — when heavy rain falls on snow in higher elevations — could result in snow melting faster, flooding downstream areas, overwhelming rivers and overloading buildings with heavy slush, weather experts say.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Declining salmon population could trigger ban on fishing

California Chinook salmon populations have fallen to their lowest levels in years, according to new estimates released by state and federal scientists — a decline that could trigger a shutdown of the commercial and recreational fishing season along the coast. … The department said scientists estimated that the number of 3-year-old fall-run Chinook likely to return to the Sacramento River this year to spawn would be fewer than 170,000, one of the lowest forecasts in 15 years. They also estimated that fewer than 104,000 are likely to return to the Klamath River, the second-lowest estimate since 1997. In its announcement Wednesday, the department said returning fall-run Chinook “fell well short of conservation objectives” in the Sacramento River last year, and may now be approaching a point of being declared overfished.

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Aquafornia news AP News

Half of California freed from drought thanks to rain, snow

Tremendous rains and snowfall since late last year have freed half of California from drought, but low groundwater levels remain a persistent problem, U.S. Drought Monitor data showed Thursday. The latest survey found that moderate or severe drought covers about 49% of the state, nearly 17% of the state is free of drought or a condition described as abnormally dry. The remainder is still abnormally dry. “Clearly the amount of water that’s fallen this year has greatly alleviated the drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It has not ended the drought completely but we’re in a very different place than we were a year ago.” California’s latest drought began in 2020 and no relief appeared in sight heading into this winter.

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Aquafornia news Newsweek

California reservoir water levels before and after winter storm

After another week of severe winter weather, levels in California’s recovering water reservoirs have continued to rise, signaling good news for the state’s summer water supplies. This follows weeks of considerable rain and snowfall in California since the start of 2023. … At the beginning of this water year, which started on October 1, 2022, the state’s largest water reservoir, Lake Shasta, was a third full, at 33 percent. It was at 60 percent as of March 1 and rising, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. That puts it at 84 percent of where it would usually be usually at this time of year.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Join groundwater awareness event Monday, read about aquifer recharge & learn about groundwater on Central Valley Tour

As we approach next week’s National Groundwater Awareness Week, we have several groundwater-related events, articles and tours to share with you. Groundwater Awareness Event: Monday, March 6 Join the California Department of Water Resources, the Water Education Foundation and others on Monday at a special event in Sacramento to kick off next week’s National Groundwater Awareness Week. The 9 a.m. to noon event will include presentations, informational stations and demonstrations. For those who are unable to attend in person at the California Natural Resources Building’s Main Auditorium, 715 P St., the presentations will be available to view remotely.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State will pay some valley farmers not to farm in attempt to save groundwater

More state money is flowing to the valley to take land out of production in an attempt to ease demand on groundwater. The state Department of Water Resources (DWR) is starting a new program called LandFlex which will pay up to $25 million in incentives to farmers to fallow crops.  On February 23, DWR announced three grants from the program, all of which are going to San Joaquin Valley groundwater agencies.  Madera County groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) will receive $9.3 million, Greater Kaweah GSA will receive $7 million and Eastern Tule GSA will receive $7 million. 

Aquafornia news UC Santa Cruz

New research: Shrinking age distribution of spawning salmon raises climate resilience concerns

By returning to spawn in the Sacramento River at different ages, Chinook salmon lessen the potential impact of a bad year and increase the stability of their population in the face of climate variability, according to a new study by scientists at UC Santa Cruz and NOAA Fisheries. Unfortunately, spawning Chinook salmon are increasingly younger and concentrated within fewer age groups, with the oldest age classes of spawners rarely seen in recent years. The new study, published February 27 in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, suggests changes in hatchery practices and fishery management could help restore the age structure of the salmon population and make it more resilient to climate change.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

Hundreds of pigeons dead from water born disease in Northern California

Reports of at least 200 sick or dead band-tailed pigeons throughout Northern California could be linked to an outbreak of avian trichomonosis, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). – Video above: Blizzard Conditions force closure of Interstate 80 Since early February, reports have been coming in from residents located along the Central Coast, the Bay Area and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The band-tailed pigeon is native to California and during the winter is often gathering acorns for the winter from central California to Southern California.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Judge extends plan to manage flows to California delta and protect endangered fish

A judge has extended a temporary settlement of a long-running dispute over California water rights and how the Central Valley Project and State Water Project manage the Sacramento River flows. … The opinions address how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources’ plan for operating the Central Valley and State Water Projects affects fish species. The opinions make it possible to send more water to 20 million farms, businesses and homes in Southern and Central California via the massive federal and state water diversion projects, and eliminate requirements such as mandating extra flows to keep water temperatures from rising high enough to damage salmon eggs. … A federal judge approved plans to allow the biological opinions to remain in effect over the next three years with added safeguards. 

Aquafornia news Restore the Delta

News release: California water rights still 90% white

To inform the “Adapting Water Rights to our 21st Century Climate” hearing at the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife on Tuesday 2/28/23, Restore the Delta today is releasing the results of a California water rights analysis by race, completed by employees with the Department of Water Resources, but deleted from the agency’s website soon after posting.  This analysis of public records shows that the majority of water rights in California are held still by white landowners and white officials who manage special-interest water districts. … For the third annual California Water Data Challenge contest, two DWR employees chose to study control of water by race and ethnicity during the summer of 2022. They concluded from their study that of 1500 local and state officials that 86 percent were white, and 79 percent were male.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Why it’s hard for California to store more water underground

Despite the storms that have deluged California this winter, the state remains dogged by drought. And one of the simplest solutions — collecting and storing rainfall — is far more complicated than it seems. Much of California’s water infrastructure hinges on storing precipitation during the late fall and winter for use during the dry spring and summer. The state’s groundwater aquifers can hold vast quantities of water — far more than its major reservoirs. But those aquifers have been significantly depleted in recent decades, especially in the Central Valley, where farmers have increasingly pumped out water for their crops. And as Raymond Zhong, a New York Times climate journalist, recently reported, the state’s strict regulations surrounding water rights limit the diversion of floodwaters for storage as groundwater, even during fierce storms …

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Friday Top of the Scroll: California invests in critical Central Valley water infrastructure projects

California’s water authorities will spend $15 million in three crucial water management zones within the drought-ravaged southern Central Valley.  The hub of agricultural production in the Golden State, the Central Valley has also faced the most dire impacts from another historic drought, as thousands of wells went dry last year and many communities faced a total lack of safe drinking water. The state’s authorities say they are releasing funds to begin projects to prevent such hardship in future droughts. The Department of Water Resources along with California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot came to the small city of Parlier on Thursday to announce three grants totaling $15 million to improve water infrastructure in the region.

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Aquafornia news

Climate change, urbanization drive major declines in L.A.’s birds

Climate change isn’t the only threat facing California’s birds. Over the course of the 20th century, urban sprawl and agricultural development have dramatically changed the landscape of the state, forcing many native species to adapt to new and unfamiliar habitats. In a new study, biologists at the University of California, Berkeley, use current and historical bird surveys to reveal how land use change has amplified—and in some cases mitigated—the impacts of climate change on bird populations in Los Angeles and the Central Valley.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: California drought issues aren’t solved by a bit of rain, flooding

California’s reservoirs may be as full as they’ve been in years thanks to recent rainfall, but it’s still not enough water to meet the state’s demands — and it will never be if the state doesn’t invest in new ways to capture all that precious water. Not enough of the state’s heavy rainfall is draining into California’s underground reservoirs to keep us sated, even through the next summer. January saw torrential downpours. February has been dry. This week, California will see a blanket of snow across much of the state, and some forecasters predict it will even reach coastal communities such as Eureka.
-Written by Robin Epley, opinion writer for The Sacramento Bee.

Aquafornia news Stockton Record

CA salmon webinar announced as fisheries in Sacramento, Klamath drop

As salmon runs on the Sacramento and Klamath River systems continue to plummet, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold its annual Salmon Information Meeting via webinar next week. The session is schedule 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Wednesday, March 1. This meeting is one of the most important meetings of the year for anglers to attend. It will feature the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year’s salmon fisheries and spawning escapement, according to the CDFW.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Shrinking water supply will mean more fallow fields in the San Joaquin Valley

Downpours or drought, California’s farm belt will need to tighten up in the next two decades and grow fewer crops. There simply won’t be enough water to sustain present irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater is dangerously depleted. Wells are drying up and the land is sinking in many places, cracking canals. Surface water supplies have been cut back because of drought, and future deliveries are uncertain due to climate change and environmental regulations. … Agriculture is water intensive. And water is becoming increasingly worrisome in the West, particularly with overuse of the Colorado River. There’s plenty of water off our coast, but we’ve only begun to dip our toe into desalination.
-Written by columnist George Skelton.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Parched California misses a chance to store more rain underground

It sounds like an obvious fix for California’s whipsawing cycles of deluge and drought: Capture the water from downpours so it can be used during dry spells. Pump it out of flood-engorged rivers and spread it in fields or sandy basins, where it can seep into the ground and replenish the region’s huge, badly depleted aquifers. … Yet even this winter, when the skies delivered bounties of water not seen in half a decade, large amounts of it surged down rivers and out into the ocean. Water agencies and experts say California bureaucracy is increasingly to blame — the state tightly regulates who gets to take water from streams and creeks to protect the rights of people downriver, and its rules don’t adjust nimbly even when storms are delivering a torrent of new supply.

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Aquafornia news The Wall Street Journal

Will California’s excess snow become useable water this year?

After three of the driest years in California history, recent storms brought some of the wettest and snowiest weeks on record to parts of the state. Snowpack accumulated during winter is vital to the state’s water system because the natural form of water storage melts during the spring and fills reservoirs that can then distribute water downstream where needed. The Sierra Nevada snowpack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs when it melts. How fast that happens can greatly impact the state’s water supply system.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Floods, fires, droughts show California needs bigger safety net for farmworkers, advocates say

Torrential rains and floods submerged whole towns and killed more than 20 people in parts of California in January. They also caused thousands of farmworkers to lose weeks of pay because the flooded fields and orchards were surrounded by treacherous, watery and muddy roads. The steep storm-related losses — along with recent revelations that some farmworkers are living in substandard conditions — are bolstering advocates’ argument that California should expand its safety net to help its agricultural workforce survive such setbacks. Some lawmakers are listening to them. State Sen. María Elena Durazo and Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago — all Democrats from Los Angeles — introduced SB 227, which would create an Excluded Workers Program to pay undocumented, unemployed workers $300 per week for each week of unemployment, up to 20 weeks.

Aquafornia news Western Water

California water agencies hoped a deluge would recharge their aquifers. but when it came, some couldn’t use it

It was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers. The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade. Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. … The barrage of water was in many ways the first real test of groundwater sustainability agencies’ plans to bring their basins into balance, as required by California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The run of storms revealed an assortment of bright spots and hurdles the state must overcome to fully take advantage of the bounty brought by the next big atmospheric river storm.  

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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.

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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 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. 

Publication California Water Map

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).

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

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.

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.