Topic: Central Valley

Overview

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 NBC Los Angeles

Map: Where the California drought just got worse

An already grim situation just got worse for California in this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report. ‘Exceptional drought’ expanded in parts of California’s agricultural Central Valley in this week’s report. That is the most severe of the weekly update’s four drought categories. The area includes portions of Kern, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties. The flat region that dominates the central part of the state has some of the most productive farmland in the country, including miles of crop fields with fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables.

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Aquafornia news The Packer

Western senators moving to drought-proof future water supply

A group of senators has introduced the Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities, or STREAM, Act. The bill would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure throughout the West. The three senators, all from states affected by the current drought, include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). … Infrastructure improvements and additions work toward a long-term solution. And it’s important to think urgently, said the release.

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Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Shasta Lake levels will drop, but not as drastically as 2021

Each year, Lake Shasta brings in locals and tourists from all over, especially for Memorial Day weekend. Businesses on Lake Shasta are dealing with low lake levels and short staffing but despite the challenges, they still expect a good holiday turnout. … With a three-year drought, lake levels are front-of-mind for many frequent lake visitors, but there is good news. Lake levels are currently about 120 feet below full pool and expected to drop 155 feet later this summer, but that’s still 30 feet higher than we saw last year. Matt Doyle, general manager of Lake Shasta Caverns, said businesses around the lake are very hopeful for this year’s summer.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Agenda now posted for special June 9 workshop in Southern California on precipitation forecasting & drought management

California’s vast network of surface water reservoirs is designed to hold carryover storage from year to year to ensure water is available for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes during dry months and years. But climate change has begun to affect our reliance on historical weather patterns to predict California’s water supply, making it even more difficult for water managers to manage drought conditions and placing a greater emphasis on better precipitation forecasting at longer lead times. Learn about efforts being made to ‘get ahead of the storms’ through new science, models and technology at our special one-day workshop June 9 in IrvineMaking Progress on Drought Management: Improvements in Seasonal Precipitation Forecasting.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Explainer: How cities in the West have water amid drought

As drought and climate change tighten their grip on the American West, the sight of fountains, swimming pools, gardens and golf courses in cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Albuquerque can be jarring at first glance. Western water experts, however, say they aren’t necessarily cause for concern. Over the past three decades, major Western cities — particularly in California and Nevada — have diversified their water sources, boosted local supplies through infrastructure investments and conservation, and use water more efficiently. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California bans watering of ‘non functional’ lawns around businesses as drought persists

Californians can expect to see more yellow grass around hospitals, hotels, office parks and industrial centers after water regulators voted Tuesday to ban watering of “nonfunctional” turf in commercial areas. The State Water Resources Control Board also moved to order all the state’s major urban water providers to step up their conservation efforts. The moves are the strongest regulatory actions state officials have taken in the third year of the latest drought.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Newsom calls for increased water conservation, warning of mandatory statewide restrictions

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday warned major water agencies to show better conservation results or face mandatory statewide water restrictions as California heads into its third summer of severe drought. The threat is a sign of Newsom’s growing impatience with the state’s failure to reduce urban water use, as he has requested since last year. In fact, people have been using more. … Newsom also said the state will closely monitor the situation over the next 60 days, and he told the agencies to submit water use data more frequently to the state and to step up outreach and education efforts to communicate the urgency of the crisis to the public.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 Los Angeles

California water officials urge conservation amid dim outlook for improvement in drought conditions

Outdoor watering restrictions area set to take effect in Los Angeles at the end of the month, and the prospect of an improvement in drought conditions appears dim. Just how bad is the drought? According to state figures, the first three months of the year were the driest in the state’s recorded history. California is currently in the third year of a drought. Wade Crowfoot is the state secretary for natural resources. The one resource he oversees that we all use is water. According to his agency, the drought is getting worse, not better.

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Aquafornia news Comstock's Magazine

After the blaze: Climate change creates challenging conditions for California wineries

Wildfires signal perhaps the most immediate threat California’s $43 billion viticulture industry faces from a warming California. Yet they’re far from the only challenge. Wineries from the San Joaquin Valley to the Sierra Nevada foothills are all suffering from intensifying droughts and hot, almost endlessly dry seasons. Both problems are predicted to get worse in the coming decades.  For grape farmers, that could be devastating: The rainless skies of the last two years resulted in highly stressed crops and seriously diminished yields.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Sacramento Valley struggles to survive record water cuts

Three years ago, when he sank everything he had into 66 acres of irrigated pasture in Shasta County, [farmer Josh] Davy thought he’d drought-proofed his cattle operation. He’d been banking on the Sacramento Valley’s water supply… But this spring, for the first time ever, no water is flowing through his pipes and canals or those of his neighbors: The district won’t be delivering any water to Davy or any of its roughly 800 other customers.

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Aquafornia news Brentwood Press

Testing to reduce blue green algae in Willow Lake at Discovery Bay to begin

Discovery Bay’s Willow Lake will be sealed off from water flow next week for an experiment to reduce the number of blue green algal blooms. The experiment is being conducted and monitored by two separate companies and will last approximately three months. The lake will still be available for residents to use, officials said. Dave Caron, owner of Aquatic EcoTechnologies, conducted tests in Discovery Bay waters in 2020 and found peroxide to be effective in reducing blooms, but not harming other plant or animal life in the water. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

High winds, heat boost fire threat as California faces long season

Fire danger is on the rise in California, as warm, dry and windy weather heralds a potentially long and difficult season. For several consecutive years, increasingly extreme, climate-change fueled wildfires have devastated parts of the state. The area of greatest concern late this week is in Northern California, where strong northerly winds will combine with dry vegetation in the Sacramento Valley…. The risk of fast-spreading blazes may ease this weekend, but officials have expressed serious concerns about the months ahead as the entirety of California contends with a historically severe drought that has turned many areas into a tinderbox.

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Aquafornia news The Conversation

Blog: Grim 2022 drought outlook for Western US offers warnings for the future as climate change brings a hotter, thirstier atmosphere

Much of the western U.S. has been in the grip of an unrelenting drought since early 2020. The dryness has coincided with record-breaking wildfires, intense and long-lasting heat waves, low stream flows and dwindling water supplies in reservoirs that millions of people across the region rely on. … One driver of the Western drought has been persistent La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific since the summer of 2020. … The other and perhaps more important part of the story is the hotter and thirstier atmosphere, caused by a rapidly warming climate.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Watering tips for Sacramento lawns during California drought

California cities are enforcing water-saving measures, summer heat has crept in early and your lush green grass is probably starting to wither. As reported by the California’s drought information system, 40% of the state is experiencing extreme drought. … In response to the record dryness, the city of Sacramento is under a “Water Alert,” asking residents to cut back on water use by 15% and to follow a seasonal watering schedule. Fines for water waste have doubled. … As you cut back on watering your home’s lawn, there are ways to still keep it green.

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Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramentok

California budget would turn Modesto-area park into state park

California is hoping to get a new state park. The site, now known as the Dos Rios Reserve, is just a 20-minute drive from Modesto and may be open to the public by next year if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget is approved. The site is where two rivers, Tuolumne and San Joaquin, meet.

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Hurtado calls for a crackdown on water profiteering

On Wednesday, State Senator Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger joined her colleague, Democratic State Senator Dave Cortese in sending a letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting an investigation into possible drought profiteering and water rights abuses in the Western states.  The Senators said they’re concerned about the increasing amount of water rights being purchased by hedge funds, their potential anti-competitive practices and the devastating impact that could have on water security.

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Aquafornia news Reuters

Severe drought could pose problems for US power grid this summer

The organization responsible for North American electric reliability warned energy shortfalls were possible this summer in California, Texas and the U.S. Midwest where extreme heat from a severe drought could cause power plants to fail. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Farmers across state face new water cuts

With 60% of the state now in extreme drought conditions, state officials are warning water-right holders that they should expect more curtailments during peak irrigation season in June and July. … Drought emergency curtailment regulations were issued last fall by the California State Water Resources Control Board for certain watersheds in response to persistent dry conditions and spurred by a drought emergency declaration by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Curtailment orders adopted last year are effective for up to one year unless readopted.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Alarming research on pesticide warrants curbs on its use

Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide, widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are paying closer attention …
-Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Newsom pitches $75M in drought relief for agriculture

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal would set aside $75 million to aid small agricultural businesses as the drought deepens. The one-time assistance would provide grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the amount of lost revenue. The program would prioritize businesses in the hardest hit regions, such as the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys…. Newsom’s budget plan would allocate $100 million for repairing conveyance canals, which was part of a 2021 budget deal. But it would not add anything further.

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Aquafornia news Comstock's magazine

The lasting agreement: California’s long legacy of trying to solve its water problem

If there’s one thing people in the West know how to fight over, it’s water. California was built on scarcity, whether it be gold or silver, land or water. In the mid-1800s, when European Americans arrived to the land where Indigenous people had lived for at least 10,000 years, they wasted no time staking their claims. A big head-scratcher for those early colonizers was how to get water to sustain burgeoning towns. 

Aquafornia news National Review

California environmentalists battle reservoir project amid drought

Jamie Traynham has spent nearly half a century in and around the lush Northern California valley, about 70 miles north of Sacramento, that is home to her family’s ranch. As a girl, she and her sister rode their horses through Sites Valley, and helped build the barn stalls where they raised livestock to show in local 4-H competitions. As an adult, Traynham and her husband rent the ranch from her mother and use the land — typically a sea of green in the rainy season — as a key winter-feeding location for their cattle.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Proposed law makes new well permitting process permanent

New legislation introduced in the State Assembly aims to make the Governor’s March 28 order on new water well permits permanent. Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and representatives from Visalia-based Community Water Center (CWC) introduced Assembly Bill 2201 on March 31 requiring local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to evaluate new well drilling permits to ensure those wells will not negatively affect domestic wells nearby before the permits can be approved by county government. The law would codify Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, which is temporary.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

California to open first new state park in 13 years

At a scenic spot where two rivers meet amid sprawling almond orchards and ranchlands between San Jose and Modesto, California’s state park system is about to get bigger. On Friday, as part of his revised May budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled to announce that the state is acquiring 2,100 acres near the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers to become a new state park — an area rich with wildlife and brimming with possibilities to reduce flood risk and restore some of California’s lost natural heritage.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California got snow in April and May. What does it mean for the snowpack?

After California saw extended periods of dry weather in the middle of winter, a series of late-season storms swept the Golden State in April and May, dusting the Sierra Nevada with fresh snow. Did those spring snow showers help bolster the dwindling snowpack that historically provides about a third of the state’s water supply? The short answer is that every little bit helps, but the snow did not come close to making up for almost no precipitation in January through March …

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Local solutions central to water forum

Facing a third year of drought, leadership from county Farm Bureaus, spanning all regions of California, gathered in Sacramento last week to engage with state water officials about all things water. A changing climate, shrinking snowpack, water rights, aging infrastructure, groundwater regulations and solutions to the state’s water crisis were among the topics discussed at the California Farm Bureau Water Forum. The event brought together state water officials and county Farm Bureau leaders from the Mountain, North Coast, Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California regions.

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Aquafornia news California Globe

Opinion: The abundance choice, part one

In October, and then again in December 2021, as the third severe drought this century was entering its third year, not one but two atmospheric rivers struck California. Dumping torrents of rain with historic intensity, from just these two storm systems over 100 million acre feet of water poured out of the skies, into the rivers, and out to sea. Almost none of it was captured by reservoirs or diverted into aquifers. Since December, not one big storm has hit the state. After a completely dry winter, a few minor storms in April and May were too little too late.
-Written by Edward Ring, a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

CA weather: What recent rain, heat means for drought, wildfires

The pendulum of Northern California weather is getting ready to swing once again, from rain, hail, thunderstorms and snow showers at the start of this week to sunny and much warmer than average temperatures by the weekend. … The latest turnaround brings the same pair of questions Californians have grown used to asking: What do the latest weather trends mean for the drought, and for wildfire risk? … The anomalies are impacting reservoir levels as well. Eleven of the state’s 17 reservoirs are below 80% of average, according Department of Water Resources data updated Tuesday.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California crises abound, but they won’t be debated

Throughout the state, water agencies are telling Californians that they must seriously curtail lawn watering and other water uses. We can probably scrape through another dry year, but were drought to persist, its impacts would likely be widespread and permanent. … It didn’t have to be this way. We could have built more storage to capture water during wet years, we could have encouraged more conservation, we could have more efficiently captured and treated wastewater for re-use and we could have embraced desalination.
-Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.  

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Cash for farmworkers? California lawmaker says new $20 million idea will help amid drought

A Democrat lawmaker from the central San Joaquin Valley wants to put cash in the hands of eligible farmworkers to help them deal with the devastation of California’s drought. Proposed by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger, Senate Bill 1066 would allocate $20 million to create the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project, a state-funded project that would provide unconditional monthly cash payments of $1,000 for three years to eligible farmworkers, with the goal of lifting them out of poverty.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Why drought makes us scared, edgy, angry

[E]ven Bay Area residents who haven’t suffered such a loss feel the dread creeping in as the hills turn brown and the Sierra snowpack shrinks to its lowest level in some 70 years. The American Psychological Association describes climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety, as fear of environmental doom. In the Bay Area, it has become easy to believe in doomsday scenarios on days when wildfire smoke chokes the air with particulate matter and turns the sky an apocalyptic orange. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Five “f”unctions of the Central Valley floodplain

The Yolo Bypass is one of two large flood bypasses in California’s Central Valley that are examples of multi-benefit floodplain projects (Figure 1; Serra-Llobet et al., 2022). Originally constructed in the early 20th century for flood control, up to 75% of the Sacramento River’s flood flow can be diverted through a system of weirs into the Yolo Bypass and away from nearby communities (Figure 2; Salcido, 2012; Sommer et al., 2001). During the dry season, floodplain soils in the bypass support farming of seasonal crops (mostly rice). Today, the bypass is also widely recognized for its ecological benefits.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

New bill aims to limit frenzy of California well drilling

In farming areas across the Central Valley, a well-drilling frenzy has accelerated over the last year as growers turn to pumping more groundwater during the drought, even as falling water levels leave hundreds of nearby homes with dry wells. Counties have continued freely issuing well-drilling permits in the years since California passed a landmark law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 … Some state legislators are now supporting a bill that they say would strengthen oversight and limit the well-drilling frenzy by requiring a review of permits for new wells by the same local agencies that are charged with managing groundwater.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s two largest reservoirs are at ‘critically low’ levels

At a point in the year when California’s water storage should be at its highest, the state’s two largest reservoirs have already dropped to critically low levels — a sobering outlook for the hotter and drier months ahead. Shasta Lake, which rises more than 1,000 feet above sea level when filled to the brim, is at less than half of where it usually should be in early May — the driest it has been at this time of year since record-keeping first began in 1976. Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir in the State Water Project, a roughly 700-mile lifeline that pumps and ferries water all the way to Southern California, is currently at 55% of total capacity.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: Droughts are ravaging the US — it’s time to get serious about water recycling

Water reuse is a national solution that can be tailored to address many local challenges. Faced with the worsening impacts of drought and climate change, the City of Los Angeles has committed to recycling 100 percent of its water by 2035. Local recycling will protect the city’s residents from water shortages caused by diminished rainfall, natural disasters and competing demands on the Colorado River.
-Written by Craig Lichty, client director and vice president for Black & Veatch and president of the WateReuse Association; and Patricia Sinicropi, the executive director of the WateReuse Association 

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Aquafornia news Eos

Assessing water infrastructure investments in California

With water scarcity increasing around the globe, arid regions are striving to develop more flexible and diversified water supplies. For example, California’s 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio Initiative recommends improving and expanding the state’s conveyance and storage infrastructure as well as developing groundwater banking and other means of more flexibly sharing water. The success of such initiatives depends in large part upon the ability of water providers to collaboratively finance and build new infrastructure.

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Aquafornia news Mother Jones

Opinion: California feeds us, but it’s in severe drought again. Time for a new idea

Chances are, you’ll eat something grown in California today. Its farms churn out a third of US-grown vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, and more milk than any other state. But as I’ve documented in many articles and in my 2020 book Perilous Bounty—released in paperback today, May 2—its water resources are dwindling, parched by climate change and a relentless expansion of thirsty nut groves. ..Where will we get our fruits and vegetables as California’s farms inevitably adapt to a hotter, drier new normal?
-Written by reporter Tom Philpott.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Calif. awards $150M for groundwater management

In an effort to boost water supply reliability for millions of Californians, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced its first round of funding to 20 agencies responsible for managing critically overdrafted groundwater basins throughout the state. A total of $150 million in funding is being awarded to regional groundwater agencies through the Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program. The funding will go toward projects focused on water efficiency, groundwater recharge, feasibility studies for alternative water supplies, and the installation of monitoring wells.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

La Niña may be sticking around, bad news for California

Heat waves. Severe drought. Extreme wildfires. As Southern California braces for unprecedented drought restrictions, long-range forecasts are predicting a summer that will be fraught with record-breaking temperatures, sere landscapes and above-average potential for significant wildfires, particularly in the northern part of the state. … Unlike its wetter and better known sibling, El Niño, La Niña typically brings dry winters to Southern California and the Southwest. 

Aquafornia news Herald and News

Why farmers often pay higher water rates and fees during drought

California walnut grower Tim McCord is at the dry end of the spigot, facing a zero-water allocation from the Central Valley Project, which is supposed to deliver to his local San Benito County Water District. … The farmer is not just concerned about his orchard; he’s also frustrated that he owes substantial water-related taxes to the district, and, if water is eventually delivered, he’ll be charged $309.75 per acre-foot — more than in non-drought years. McCord is not alone. During drought, it’s common for farmers across the West to pay higher water-related rates, assessments, fees and taxes than during wet years.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Monday Top of the Scroll: La Nina may enter rare third year. What that means.

Meteorologists are monitoring the potential for a “triple-dip La Niña,” an unusual resurgence of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific. While such a phenomenon might seem remote, La Niña plays an enormous role in our weather stateside. In addition to helping juice up tornado season in the spring, La Niña has been known to supercharge Atlantic hurricane season when it sticks around into the summer and fall. La Niña is back. Here’s what that means.

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Aquafornia news NBC News

Watch: Consequences of severe drought and climate change ripple across California

Water officials believe the past three years could end up as the driest in California’s history. State reservoir levels are alarmingly low, and measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack are “grim,” the state’s natural resources secretary tells Lester Holt. The drought is impacting the water supply for residents and farms, which supply critical crops for the nation.

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Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Hurtado’s ag, water bills advance in Senate

Two bills authored by Democratic State Senator Melissa Hurtado, who represents the 14th district that includes Porterville, advanced in the Senate on Wednesday. SB 1219, Hurtado’s State Water Resiliency and Modernization Act passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  Hurtado’s bill to prevent foreign purchases of agricultural property, SB 1064, the Food and Farm Security Act also passed the Senate Agricultural Committee 4-0.  

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

New release: DWR awards $22 million to address drought impacts and support small communities statewide

Following the driest three-month stretch in the state’s recorded history and with warmer months ahead, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced its seventh round of grant awards for local assistance through the Small Community Drought Relief program. In coordination with the State Water Resources Control Board, DWR has selected 17 projects … 14 will directly support disadvantaged communities, including three Tribes, and will replace aging infrastructure, increase water storage, and improve drinking water quality and supply.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Megadrought threatens California power blackouts this summer

The historic drought that’s choked off rivers and reservoirs from the Rocky Mountains to the California coast is threatening to strain power grids this summer, raising the specter of blackouts and forcing the region to rely on more fossil fuels. Many reservoirs that should be brimming with spring snowmelt show bathtub rings of dry dirt instead, including the largest one in the U.S., Lake Mead, which fell this week to a record low. Hydropower dams feeding off those reservoirs won’t be able to pump out as much electricity as they should, if they keep operating at all.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: Why some SoCal neighborhoods face dire water cuts while others escape restrictions

Major water restrictions are about to take effect in areas ranging from Rancho Cucamonga to Thousand Oaks, and Baldwin Park to North Hollywood. But many nearby areas will escape the mandatory one-day-a-week watering limits — among them Santa Monica, Long Beach, Torrance and Beverly Hills. Why? The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has targeted these first-ever water restrictions for areas that rely heavily or entirely on the State Water Project — a Northern California water supply that officials say faces a real risk of running dry. 

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: Droughts are ravaging the US — it’s time to get serious about water recycling

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last month that nearly 60 percent of the U.S. is experiencing some level of drought, including severe conditions that threaten wildfires, heatwaves and low precipitation. States along the Colorado River Basin have entered into agreements to reduce their demands on the dwindling river, including recycling local water to make up the difference. This Water Week, we’re focused on a series of remaining actions that will help unleash the full potential of water recycling across the United States.
-Written by Craig Lichty, client director and vice president for Black & Veatch and president of the WateReuse Association; and Patricia Sinicropi, the executive director of the WateReuse Association.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California bill would pay farmworkers amid drought, climate crisis

As worsening drought conditions in California and the West take a heavy economic toll on agriculture, state legislators are considering a plan to pay farmworkers $1,000 a month to help them cover the cost of necessities. The bill is meant to assist farmworkers who have fewer crops to tend as climate change limits the window for each growing season and cuts the Golden State’s water supply.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Farming in a state of extremes

California’s agricultural sector is the nation’s largest, generating more than $50 billion in annual revenue and employing more than 420,000 people. But water supply has always been an issue in the drought-prone state, and that’s growing more pressing with the warming, increasingly volatile climate. … Escriva-Bou presented new findings from joint research with a team from UC Merced about how the ongoing drought is affecting the state’s farming regions, which suffered $1.1 billion in direct economic costs in 2021.

Aquafornia news KCRA

DWR aquifer surveys will help bolster groundwater supply

For the past year, California’s Department of Water Resources has been taking measurements of aquifers in central and southern parts of the state. The same will be done for the Sacramento Valley over the next several weeks. This project, which is known as an Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Survey, is a direct result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which calls for local and state water agencies to work together to better understand and manage groundwater supply.

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: Untapped beauty in California’s Central Valley

Over the past two centuries, 95% of the Central Valley’s wetlands have been lost to development, landscaped out of existence to satisfy the hunger of an urbanizing, growing nation. But that’s only part of the picture. California’s Central Valley extends far beyond what you can see from the freeways bisecting the belly of the state to connect the Redding to the Bay Area to Los Angeles. The region once boasted one of the largest and most biologically diverse wetlands on earth nourished by the mighty Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers …

Aquafornia news YourCentralValley.com

New technology helps find water underground in California

California is deploying cutting-edge technology that can ‘see’ underground water. A giant electrified ring suspended from a helicopter will make a never-before-seen picture of a world beneath our feet. Wells in the Valley are running dry. Drilling deeper is more expensive and sometimes still fails to find water. When it does, water quality is often worse, containing minerals like arsenic.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Lawmaker says farmworkers need drought aid

A Democrat lawmaker from the central San Joaquin Valley wants to put cash in the hands of eligible farmworkers to help them deal with the devastation of California’s drought.  Proposed by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger, Senate Bill 1066 would allocate $20 million to create the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project, a state-funded project that would provide unconditional monthly cash payments of $1,000 for three years to eligible farmworkers, with the goal of lifting them out of poverty.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: Delta voluntary agreements are a “plan to fail” in droughts

Rather than planning for droughts and ensuring that minimum water quality objectives are achieved in critically dry years, the proposed voluntary agreement appears to be a “plan to fail” to protect the Delta in future droughts.  Droughts are a fact of life in California, even as climate change is making them worse.  The Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio recognizes the need to improve drought preparedness, requiring that the State to be able to protect fish and wildlife during a six year drought …

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Miguel Rocha named Reclamation’s chief of dam safety

Miguel Rocha, P.E., was selected as the Bureau of Reclamation’s chief of dam safety. Rocha will oversee the Dam Safety Program, which evaluates existing dams for safety concerns and implements proactive solutions for dams across Reclamation. In this new role, Rocha oversees responsibility for Reclamation’s 360 high hazard potential dams. Failure or improper operation of a high hazard potential dam could result in loss of life or significant economic loss.

Aquafornia news Long Beach Post

Long Beach commission may further limit watering yards amid drought

The Long Beach Water Commission may upgrade the city’s water shortage level next week, which would bring with it new restrictions on when residents can water landscaping. Updating the city’s water shortage stage comes as California heads toward its third straight year of drought. The proposal to go to Stage 2, which would limit landscape irrigation to two days per week year-round, would take the city back to water conservation rules not seen since June 2016.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Nature

New research: A hybrid machine learning approach for estimating the water-use efficiency and yield in agriculture

Water resources are declining in many regions of the world. Due to climate change, increased air temperatures, and reduced precipitation, we will face a decline in water resources in the future. … Lampinen et al investigated soil and plant data and evapotranspiration for irrigation management of walnut trees in California, USA. Fernandes-Silva, by examining the effect of different irrigation regimes (dryland irrigation with 30% and 100% water requirement) on yield and WUE of olive, reported that crop evapotranspiration (ETc) is the most influential parameter in changes in fruit yield. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California hikes costs for flood protections in farm country

Climate change is worsening the already significant threat of flooding in California’s farm country, and state officials said Thursday that as much as $30 billion may be needed over three decades to protect the region, an increase from five years ago. Every five years, flood protection plans are updated for the Central Valley, where about 1.3 million people live at risk in floodplains. State officials released a draft of the latest update that calls for investing in levees, maintenance and multi-benefit projects that recharge aquifers and support wildlife while enhancing flood protection.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

California Senate OKs lower standard for indoor water use

Mired in an extreme drought, California lawmakers on Thursday took the first step toward lowering the standard for how much water people use in their homes — a move that won’t be enforced on individual customers but could lead to higher rates even as consumption declines. California’s current standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons per person per day…. The California Senate voted 28-9 on Thursday to lower the standard to 47 gallons per person per day starting in 2025; and 42 gallons per person per day beginning in 2030. The bill has not yet passed the Assembly, meaning it is still likely months away from becoming law. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: CA weather – Winter storm in Sierra mountains, rain in valley

A strong storm inbound for Northern California will peak Thursday, blanketing the mountains with feet of snow that will make travel extremely hazardous if not impossible, according to the latest weather forecasts…. Rain and snow may put a small dent in California’s drought conditions, but storms this week and last week won’t be enough to bust it. Statewide snowpack as of Wednesday morning stood at just 30% of normal for the date, according to the Department of Water Resources.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: Big storms, dry spells, demonstrate the need for improved infrastructure and the Delta Conveyance Project

California is immersed in a third year of drought, with January, February and March of 2022 experiencing the lowest precipitation on record. Weather whiplash of big storms followed by dry spells makes every drop of rain, every flake of snow, and every water molecule vital this year for families, farms, the environment and the economy. But outdated infrastructure and the orientation of the pumping facilities in the south Delta limits our ability to capture available water from storm events. The Delta Conveyance Project would help resolve this limitation.

Aquafornia news Action News Now - Chico

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Gov. Newsom to ask legislature for $750M as state looks to conserve water

During Gov. Gavin Newsom’s visit to Butte County on Tuesday, Newsom said he will ask the legislature for $750 million to help with drought conditions. At the Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville, which shut down last year due to record low lake levels, Newsom spoke about how the state needs a different approach to water conservation. Newsom already invested $5.2 billion in the past three years for water security for all Californians.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: “An era of surprises” – Studying climate change and salmon with Nate Mantua

Growing up in a Northern Californian fishing town, Nate Mantua’s family owned a business connected to the local salmon fishing industry. When one of the worst El Niño events ever recorded hit the West Coast in 1982 and 1983, the salmon fishery his family relied on suffered. Nate would go on to study how to predict El Niño events in graduate school, years later. Now he works to understand the impacts of climate change. Nate leads a team of salmon ecologists, biologists, freshwater and ocean experts at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California gives rivers more room to flow to stem flood risk

Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California’s farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres (1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state’s Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: More heavy Sierra snow coming this week. What it means for California drought, fires

A pair of storms will reach Northern California this week, with lighter showers Tuesday intensifying to heavy April snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains later in the week….Spring snowfall has helped boost California a bit after an exceptionally dry January through March. But it’s still very unlikely to bust the drought, as the recent storms represent just a fraction of the snowpack lost to record-low precipitation earlier in the year, and the window for more heavy snow is quickly closing before summer heat arrives.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 Sacramento

Monday Top of the Scroll: Can late storms make up for the dry period in California?

More wet weather is on tap for the week as the Pacific storm track continues to favor a wetter weather pattern for Northern California. This is much-needed rain after Jan. and March 2022 ended as the driest on record for much of California. The pattern shift in mid-April brought much-needed rain and snow but not enough to catch up to big deficits that grew through the end of the wet season.

Related articles: 

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

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

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

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

Western Water By Alastair Bland

SIDEBAR: Creating A Floodplain Buffet for Salmon Smolts

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

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

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

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

Related articles: 

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

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

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

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

Western Water Water Education Foundation

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water 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.

Announcement

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.

Announcement

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.

Tour

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.

Announcement

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.

Announcement

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.

Announcement

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.

Announcement

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

ARkStorm

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

Salinity

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.”

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

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

Publication

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

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. 

Publication

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.