Devastating floods are almost annual occurrences in the West and
in California. With the anticipated sea level rise and other
impacts of a changing climate, particularly heavy winter rains,
flood management is increasingly critical in California.
Compounding the issue are man-made flood hazards such as levee
stability and stormwater runoff.
The bulldozers are back at Randall and East Valley roads this
month, working on the final phase of the Montecito’s newest
debris basin — a giant bowl designed to trap boulders and
fallen trees and help protect the downstream homeowners on San
Ysidro Creek from catastrophic debris flows. When it is
finished in late August, the $10 million Randall Road basin
will be the fifth on Montecito’s deadly creeks.
Those who regularly cross the Napa Creek footbridge from
Clinton Street to Coombs Street in downtown Napa might be
unaware of the beavers that live below. The thick-furred,
aqueous mammals are nocturnal, after all, and tend to go about
their wood-gnawing, dam-building business when people aren’t
around to watch them. They also haven’t been in the Downtown
Napa area for all that long, though the increasing presence of
them around the city of Napa in recent years has often been
heralded as a sign of environmental success connected to the
millions spent on flood control projects over the past few
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
announced the appointment of Eileen White as its executive
officer, succeeding Michael Montgomery. Her first day is July
11. White most recently served as director of East Bay
Municipal Utility District’s Wastewater Department, where she
recently led the development of EBMUD’s Integrated Master Plan
for its main wastewater treatment plant, along with EBMUD’s
Climate Action Plan, to guide operations, investments and
priorities for decades to come. White managed a workforce of
A ruling by federal regulators has put a damper on plans to
turn 300 miles of rail line from Humboldt County to Marin
County into the Great Redwood Trail. The Surface Transportation
Board issued a decision Tuesday that it will not prioritize
trail use … Maintaining the rail line along the Eel
River is financially infeasible because of landslides and other
risks, but the North Coast Railroad Co. wants to take over that
portion of the line. … U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and
state Sen. Mike McGuire … issued statements saying they
weren’t surprised by the decision, but that they are taking
steps to ensure the “toxic coal train” doesn’t become a reality
on the North Coast.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta lies at the confluence of two
of the state’s largest rivers. Forty percent of California’s
runoff flows into the Delta, which—together with the San
Francisco Bay—forms one of the West Coast’s largest estuaries.
The Delta watershed supplies water to roughly 30 million
residents and more than 6 million acres of farmland. Water
exported from the Delta goes to the Bay Area, the southern San
Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, and Southern California
Even as President Biden’s signature climate change bill
languishes in the Senate, Congress is poised to spend billions
of dollars on ambitious new projects that would help the U.S.
adapt to climate change. A bill that would authorize the Army
Corps of Engineers to build infrastructure to protect against
climate impacts is quietly sailing through Congress,
demonstrating bipartisan support for measures to protect
against flooding and sea-level rise. … The bill also
allows the Corps to undertake drought response efforts in the
I don’t think these disasters will convince us to curb fossil
fuel pollution. Let me explain. First, available social science
doesn’t support the notion that climate disasters lead to
widespread changes in public opinion. A 2021 study from the
journal Climate Change found hurricanes provide a modest nudge
in favor of support for reducing carbon dioxide pollution.
Wildfires and floods, the other disasters studied, did not sway
people. -Written by John D. Sutter, CNN contributor,
National Geographic Explorer and MIT science journalism
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.
Water policy in the Western U.S. has always been a contentious
issue. Changes in water management, however, are slowly
happening. For example, an increasing number of dams are being
deconstructed where environmental, safety, and
Indigenous-cultural impacts outweigh the benefits of
hydropower, flood control, irrigation, or recreation…. More
recently, the issues of water wastage and flood control from
dam removal are being offset by allowing rivers to return to
more natural flow patterns.
Sea levels in San Francisco Bay have risen nearly 8 inches in
the last 100 years and continue to rise. The sea level in this
area could rise as much as 3 feet over the next 50 years, and
this project will help protect future generations. In December
2021, Valley Water and its partners broke ground on the first
portion of the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Phase 1
Project. … Once completed, this project will help reduce
coastal flood risk for about 5,500 residents, commuters and
businesses within the vicinity of Alviso and North San José.
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
Americans wondering whether a nearby dam could be dangerous can
look up the condition and hazard ratings of tens of thousands
of dams nationwide using an online database run by the federal
government. But they won’t find the condition of Hoover Dam,
which impounds one the nation’s largest reservoirs on the
border of Nevada and Arizona. Nor is there any condition listed
for California’s Oroville Dam, the country’s tallest, which
underwent a $1 billion makeover after its spillway failed.
Rising sea levels. Runoff from rapidly melting snow and ice.
Rivers and streams overflowing their banks. As climate change
continues to wreak havoc on the environmental norms humans
widely take for granted, the frequency and severity of extreme
weather has increased on a global scale. Floods, the most
common and fatal natural disasters in the U.S., continue to get
more destructive. Catastrophic flooding events once thought to
occur every 100 years could become annual happenings. And the
nation’s floodplains are projected to grow by roughly 45% by
the end of the century.
Rivers in California’s Central Valley like to go their own way:
they expand, contract, meander and regenerate soil in the
process. The historic movement of rivers is what made Central
Valley soil so fertile. Naturally flowing rivers recharge and
save water for people and nature, providing habitat for many
species including four distinct runs of chinook salmon.
Before the early 20th century, the Sacramento River had one of
the biggest salmon runs in North America …
The cost to repair flood-damaged Stern Grove in San Francisco
ballooned to $20 million, according to a recent report from the
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — five times more
than the $4 million city officials initially estimated. The
concert venue’s hillside was washed out after an air release
valve failed during maintenance of a 54-inch diameter water
line last August.
In the Sierra Nevada, midwinter “rain-on-snow” events occur
when rain falls onto existing snowpack and have resulted in
some of the region’s biggest and most damaging floods.
Rain-on-snow events are projected to increase in size and
frequency in the coming years, but little guidance exists for
water resource managers on how to mitigate flood risk during
times of rapidly changing snowpack. Their minute-by-minute
decisions during winter storms can have long-lasting impacts to
people, property, and water supplies.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) from the world’s scientific community leaves no
doubt that we must take urgent action on climate change while
we still have a chance to prevent the most destructive impacts
to the globe’s communities and ecosystems. This report must
spur every one of us to look at actions we can take in our
region to rapidly reduce emissions and prepare our communities
to adapt. … One of the most effective nature-based
solutions is the expansion and restoration of coastal
wetlands. -Written by Carin High, co-chair of the Citizens
Committee to Complete the Refuge; and Arthur
Feinstein, vice-chair of the Sierra Club California
Conservation Committee and Chair of the Sierra Club’s Bay
A colorful, widely visible, but graffiti-marred mural on a
flood-control dam near Corona that celebrated the nation’s
bicentennial no longer enjoys the protection of a court order.
But officials say a plan is in the works to replace the
patriotic image on Prado Dam, which was originally created with
toxic lead paint. The fate of the mural near the 91 and 71
freeways has been uncertain since the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, which controls the dam, announced plans to begin
removing the gigantic painting in spring 2015.
You could say that Orange Memorial Park in South San Francisco
is about to turn deep green. … [Colma Creek is] an
historic, natural waterway that was heavily cemented for flood
control in the early days of the area’s development. For
decades, the creek has carried runoff from the surrounding
watershed straight into San Francisco Bay, along with a
significant amount of trash. But that’s about to change.
The Bureau of Reclamation today announced virtual public
negotiation sessions for a repayment contract with the
Truckee-Carson Irrigation District for extraordinary
maintenance on the Truckee Canal. The extraordinary maintenance
will restore safe long-term operation of the Truckee Canal and
includes lining 3.5 miles of the canal and improvements to two
check structures. The canal is owned by Reclamation as part of
the Newlands Project and operated and maintained by the
Truckee-Carson Irrigation District since 1926.
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.
Extreme storms like the massive bomb cyclone that drenched the
San Francisco Bay Area last October are likely to become more
powerful in the coming decades as climate change alters
atmospheric conditions. The Bay Area could see between 26% and
37% more water from these mega-storms by the end of the
century, according to a new study from the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory commissioned by the city. … Even
though each mega-storm could pack more rain, other climate
change studies suggest water will overall be more scarce.
In November 2021, salmon entering Putah Creek were part of a
large fish kill in the lower creek. The event took
everyone familiar with the creek by surprise and prevented
successful migration of the creek’s fall salmon. Only 4 or 5
adult Chinook salmon made it upstream to suitable spawning
habitat. The result was particularly tragic as it followed
on the heels of the restoration of a salmon run in the creek,
as well as habitat for other fishes.
Sea level rise is one of the many threats we face as Earth’s
climate changes. … The worry there is obvious for
coastal communities in California. But the sea-level rise is
something that could affect all Californians because of where
that rising seawater would end up: the Central Delta.
… The Delta’s complex network of waterways is home to a
diverse ecosystem. It also serves 750,000 acres of farmland
with fresh water. Drinking water is also sent through the Delta
to the State Water Project system in Southern California.
When overlaid with data about flood and wildfire risk,
Headwaters’ analysis reveals areas with stark capacity
barriers, often exacerbated by historical injustices, as well
as high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. … In
theory, the $47 billion the infrastructure bill designates for
climate resilience can help communities prepare for floods,
fires, storms and droughts. But Headwaters’ analysis suggests
that areas with low capacity might not submit requests in the
As Gleason Beach’s last homes cling to the edge of the bluff,
Highway 1 itself is threatened at several other points along
Sonoma County’s 55-mile coastline. Now, after decades of
studies and debates, Gleason Beach has become the guinea pig
for California’s foray into a bold and controversial strategy:
to remove buildings and infrastructure from the coast and
relocate them farther inland. The $26 million project, headed
by Caltrans, involves moving nearly a mile of roadway several
hundred feet inland and erecting a new, 850-foot concrete
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.
Napa County has joined an effort to raise an early alarm about
flood control agencies potentially losing out on millions of
dollars if the state doesn’t take action to extend a
deadline. Specifically, a loss of access to reimbursement
funds would happen if the funding from Proposition 1E — a $4.09
billion bond measure for flood control projects passed by
California voters in 2006 — is allowed to expire by its current
deadline of July 1, 2023. The funds come by way of a state
program, managed by the California Department of Water
Resources, that pays back agencies their costs for
federally-required flood control projects.
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.
Hundreds of millions of new federal dollars are headed to the
region to help fund the massive Natomas levee project.
President Joe Biden has signed legislation that includes $157
million for an existing project in the Natomas Basin, as well
as $17.9 million to begin construction in West Sacramento. In
addition, Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal 2023, the 12 month
period that begins Oct. 1, includes another $172 million for
the levee project and $79.7 million to help the West Sacramento
Despite being the largest estuary on the West Coast and
supporting both a highly diverse ecosystem and a multi-billion
dollar economy, the San Francisco Bay Estuary was not getting
its fair share of federal funding for restoration, according to
local lawmakers and environmental organizations. That changed
this year after Congress and President Joe Biden approved more
than $50 million in funding to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency for projects to restore lost wetlands,
improve water quality, address pollution and bolster sea-level
rise defenses throughout San Francisco Bay.
A new study warns that the benefits of California’s Water
Resilience Portfolio Initiative might not be evenly distributed
without proper structure to the agreements. Partnerships
between water utilities, irrigation districts and other
stakeholders in California will play a critical role in funding
new infrastructure under the Water Resilience Portfolio
Initiative announced in 2020 by the state’s governor, Gavin
San Francisco Bay is famous worldwide for the Golden Gate
Bridge, Alcatraz and many of the tech companies that ring its
edges. … It’s also an increasingly serious threat to millions
of residents and hundreds of billions of dollars of bay front
property — from neighborhoods to freeways to airports — as seas
continue their slow but relentless rise. On Thursday, state,
federal and local leaders broke ground on the latest effort to
reduce that risk, kicking off a $545 million project to protect
San Jose’s shoreline against winter flooding and rising sea
levels from climate change.
The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
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.
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.
USACE Sacramento District has a proven track record of facing
challenges head-on. When 2020 brought with it the Novel
Coronavirus, the District responded quickly to address the
needs of a rapidly changing work environment…This year marked
the start of major construction on the [American River Common
Features] project, and the pandemic hit just as crews were
mobilizing, meaning both USACE and its contractors faced
unexpected public impacts.
This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
The islands of the western
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are sinking as the rich peat soil
that attracted generations of farmers dries out and decays. As
the peat decomposes, it releases tons of carbon dioxide – a
greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere. As the islands sink, the
levees that protect them are at increasing risk of failure, which
could imperil California’s vital water conveyance system.
An ambitious plan now in the works could halt the decay,
sequester the carbon and potentially reverse the sinking.
Many of California’s watersheds are
notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring
flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it
can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are
strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each
winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.
However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could
lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water
supply and flood protection capabilities.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
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
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years
of drought and the dramatic decline in water levels at the
river’s key reservoirs have pressed water managers to adapt to
challenging conditions. But even more extreme — albeit rare —
droughts or floods that could overwhelm water managers may lie
ahead in the Basin as the effects of climate change take hold,
say a group of scientists. They argue that stakeholders who are
preparing to rewrite the operating rules of the river should plan
now for how to handle these so-called “black swan” events so
they’re not blindsided.
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
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.
Just because El Niño may be lurking
off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a
clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in
Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and
packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like
the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30,
2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter,
leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of
another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine,
water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will
learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
The Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
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.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
Every day, people flock to Daniel
Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and
insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather.
Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the
Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the
term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe
the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the
West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from
California, intensifying the drought.
Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause
droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme
weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and
alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford
University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides
unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the
western United States. In a recent interview with Western
Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its
potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may
lie ahead for the state’s water supply.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
In a state with such topsy-turvy weather as California, the
ability of forecasters to peer into the vast expanse of the
Pacific Ocean and accurately predict the arrival of storms is a
must to improve water supply reliability and flood management
The problem, according to Jeanine Jones, interstate resources
manager with the state Department of Water Resources, is
that “we have been managing with 20th century
technology with respect to our ability to do weather
Work crews repairing Oroville Dam’s damaged emergency spillway
are dumping 1,200 tons of rock each hour and using shotcrete to
stabilize the hillside slope, an official with the Department of
Water Resources told the California Water Commission today.
The pace of work is “round the clock,” said Kasey Schimke,
assistant director of DWR’s legislative affairs office.
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.
A hydrograph illustrates a type of activity of water during a
specific time frame. Salinity and acidity are sometimes measured,
but the most common types
are stage and discharge hydrographs. These graphs show how
surface water flow responds to fluxes in precipitation.
Prado Dam – built in 1941 in
response to the Santa Ana
River’s flood-prone past – separates the river into its
upper and lower watersheds. After the devastation of the
Angeles Flood of 1938 that impacted much of Southern
California, it became evident that flood protection was woefully
inadequate, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to
construct Prado Dam.
Contrary to popular belief, “100-Year Flood” does not refer to a
flood that happens every century. Rather, the term describes the
statistical chance of a flood of a certain magnitude (or greater)
taking place once in 100 years. It is also accurate to say a
so-called “100-Year Flood” has a 1 percent chance of occurring in
a given year, and those living in a 100-year floodplain have,
each year, a 1 percent chance of being flooded.
California’s seasonal weather is
influenced by El Niño and La Niña – temporary climatic conditions
that, depending on their severity, contribute to weather that is
wetter or drier than normal.
El Niño and La Niña episodes typically last nine to 12 months,
but some events may last for years. While their frequency can be
quite irregular, El Niño and La Niña events occur on average
every two to seven years. Typically, El Niño occurs more
frequently than La Niña, according to the National Oceanic and
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.
20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater,
and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and
turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource
through various activities.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
With the dual threats of obsolete levees and anticipated rising sea levels,
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.
When people think of natural
disasters in California, they typically think about earthquakes.
Yet the natural disaster that residents are most likely to face
involves flooding, not fault lines. In fact, all 58 counties in
the state have declared a state of emergency from flooding at
least three times since 1950. And the state’s capital,
Sacramento, is considered one of the nation’s most flood-prone
cities. Floods also affect every Californian because flood
management projects and damages are paid with public funds.
Devastating floods are almost an annual occurrence in the West
and in California. With the anticipated sea level rise and other
impacts of a changing climate, particularly heavy winter rains,
flood management is increasingly critical in California.
Compounding the issue are human-made flood hazards such as levee
instability and stormwater runoff.
Yolo Bypass occupies a historic floodplain between Davis and
With the city of Sacramento and other area communities prone to
flooding, the 59,000-acre Yolo Bypass helps offset that risk
while also providing habitat for wildlife. Managed by
California’s Department of Water Resources and a part of the
Sacramento River Flood Control System, bypass boundaries are
defined by constructed levees. The huge floodway is three-miles
wide in some parts.
Liability for levee failure in California took a new turn after a
court ruling found the state liable for hundreds of millions of
dollars from the 1986 Linda Levee collapse in Yuba County. The
levee failure killed two people and destroyed or damaged about
The collapse also had long-term legal ramifications.
The Paterno Decision
California’s Supreme Court found that, “when a public entity
operates a flood management system built by someone else, it
accepts liability as if it had planned and built the system
This printed issue of Western Water This issue of Western Water
looks at climate change through the lens of some of the latest
scientific research and responses from experts regarding
mitigation and adaptation.
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.
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
This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues
associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the
water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of
whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they
might be provided.
This printed issue of Western Water discusses several
flood-related issues, including the proposed Central Valley Flood
Protection Plan, the FEMA remapping process and the dispute
between the state and the Corps regarding the levee vegetation
Levees are one of those pieces of engineering that are never
really appreciated until they fail. California would not exist as
it does today were it not for the extensive system of levees,
weirs and flood bypasses that have been built through the years.
This printed copy of Western Water examines climate change –
what’s known about it, the remaining uncertainty and what steps
water agencies are talking to prepare for its impact. Much of the
information comes from the October 2007 California Climate Change
and Water Adaptation Summit sponsored by the Water Education
Foundation and DWR and the November 2007 California Water Policy
Conference sponsored by Public Officials for Water and
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.
Is the devastating flooding that occurred in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast an ominous warning to
California? That’s the question policymakers are facing as they
consider how to best protect lives, property and the integrity of
the state’s water supply from the forces of raging floodwaters.
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.
Some time in the next month or two, slight, temporal changes in
the upper atmosphere will augur the beginning of the rainy
portion of California’s Mediterranean climate. The high pressure
and sunny days should gradually give way to rain and snow,
replenishing the vast reservoir that is the state’s precious
For many of us in northern California, some of the hope and
optimism that fills each New Year’s eve was shattered on New
Year’s Day 1997 when rain from a series of huge tropical storms
began dumping what would eventually be a total of 25 inches of
rain over the region in eight days. People were riveted to their
televisions as the disaster, which took 9 lives, unfolded.