Topic: Hydropower

Overview

Hydropower

Hydroelectric power is generated by the ability to turn falling water into electricity and in California accounts for about 15 percent of the state’s power supply annually.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

Glenwood $2 million pledge pushes Shoshone campaign over halfway mark

A Western Slope fundraising effort to buy the historic Shoshone hydroelectric plant water rights is now more than half of the way toward succeeding thanks to a $2 million contribution by the City of Glenwood Springs, just downstream of the Glenwood Canyon facility. Glenwood’s City Council unanimously approved the funding Thursday. The city’s recreation-based economy relies in part on reliable Colorado River flows through the canyon, which the plant’s water rights help assure by virtue of their seniority. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Press Democrat

Lake County gets $700k to see how PG&E project affects Scott Dam

The county’s study seeks to determine how decommissioning Scott Dam could affect the surrounding ecosystem, the Lake Pillsbury water supply, infrastructure, power, sediment and the county’s ability to fight fire. “The grant was part of a conversation with CDFW we’ve been having for a while,” said Lake County Board of Supervisors chair Bruno Sabatier. The county on May 2 put out its call for a company to do the study in response to Pacific Gas & Electric’s efforts to decommission its powerhouse in Potter Valley, which includes Scott and Cape Horn dams. The power company detailed its plans to tear down the dams, located on the Eel River, in November 2023. Scott Dam was built in 1921 and, according to PG&E’s plan, is slated to come down before Cape Horn Dam and could come down in phases or in one season. Those plans still need final approval from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission. 

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Greeley, Colo.

There are concerns about the future of hydropower in the U.S. Here’s why

The ongoing drought across the western United States has led to concerns about the future of hydropower. As reservoirs see water levels drop, officials worry about electricity generation being reduced, as well. This is an issue Syris Valentine has written about. Valentine is the climate solutions fellow with Grist Magazine. He joined The Show to talk about what he’s learned.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

Denied hydropower permits may be turning point for tribal input on energy projects

The U.S. has a long record of extracting resources on Native lands and ignoring tribal opposition, but a decision by federal energy regulators to deny permits for seven proposed hydropower projects suggests that tide may be turning. As the U.S. shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy, developers are looking for sites to generate electricity from renewable sources. But in an unexpected move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied permits on Feb. 15, 2024, for seven proposed hydropower projects in Arizona and New Mexico. The reason: These projects were located within the Navajo Nation and were proposed without first consulting with the tribe. FERC said it was “establishing a new policy that the Commission will not issue preliminary permits for projects proposing to use Tribal lands if the Tribe on whose lands the project is to be located opposes the permit.”

Aquafornia news Union Democrat

Canal repairs prompt calls for TUD customers to conserve water

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is shutting down its 15.5-mile-long Main Tuolumne Canal, the chain of flumes and ditches that conveys 95% of Tuolumne Utilities District’s drinking water supply, this Sunday, April 28, to next Sunday, May 5, and TUD is urging all of its customers to limit water use for the temporary shutdown. … The Main Tuolumne Canal outage is strictly for routine biannual maintenance on the flumes and ditches each spring and fall. Beginnings of the Main Tuolumne Canal, which brings water from Lyons Reservoir to Phoenix Powerhouse, and other ditches further downstream that are owned by TUD, date back to the 1850s when Gold Rush miners needed water at their diggings in places like Sonora and Columbia.

Aquafornia news E&E News

FERC blocks massive Arizona storage project in win for tribes

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week rejected a massive pumped hydropower proposal on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, cementing a new agency policy to no longer advance energy projects opposed by tribes whose land would be affected. The Navajo Nation filed comments last month opposing the proposed Big Canyon Pumped Hydro project, which would have dammed the Lower Colorado River and flooded hundreds of acres to create reservoirs to store and dispatch power. The tribe warned that the storage project could create “adverse impacts” to water and cultural resources, as well as the tribe’s water rights. Those comments were enough to nix the project’s preliminary permit application, which had been pending since 2020.

Related tribal water articles: 

Aquafornia news Grist

Rivers are the West’s largest source of clean energy. What happens when drought strikes? 

The Pacific Northwest lays claim to well over two-fifths of America’s dam-derived electricity. So when a drought hits the region, the nation takes notice. That happened in 2023 when, according to a recent report, U.S. hydroelectric power hit its lowest level in 22 years. … Last year offered energy providers in the West a glimpse of the conditions they may need to adapt to as the world warms and seasonal weather patterns shift. While models predict climate change will plunge California and the Southwest deeper into drought, what awaits Washington and Oregon is less clear. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Scientific American

A golden age of renewables is beginning, and California is leading the way

Something spectacular is happening in the Golden State. California—the fifth-largest economy in the world—has experienced a record-breaking string of days in which the combined generation of wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and solar electricity has exceeded demand on the main electricity grid for anywhere from 15 minutes to 9.25 hours per day. These clean, renewable electricity sources are collectively known as wind-water-solar (WWS) sources. … With the future growth of both utility-scale and rooftop solar, however, California will ultimately provide 100 percent WWS during summer daytime hours as well. Solar, though, provides electricity during the day only.

Aquafornia news CleanTechnica

Blog: U.S. hydropower generation expected to increase by 6% in 2024 following last year’s lows

Last year, U.S. hydropower electricity generation fell to its lowest since 2001. This year, we expect hydropower to increase 6% and account for 250 billion kilowatthours of electricity generation in the power sector, based on forecasts in our Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). We expect hydropower to increase in nearly every part of the country, with notable increases in the Southeast and in the Northwest and Rockies. We expect other regions with significant hydropower generation to either increase slightly, such as in New York, or remain about the same, such as in California.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

Opinion: Native American voices are finally factoring into energy projects – a hydropower ruling is a victory for environmental justice on tribal lands

The U.S. has a long record of extracting resources on Native lands and ignoring tribal opposition, but a decision by federal energy regulators to deny permits for seven proposed hydropower projects suggests that tide may be turning. As the U.S. shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy, developers are looking for sites to generate electricity from renewable sources. But in an unexpected move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied permits on Feb. 15, 2024, for seven proposed hydropower projects in Arizona and New Mexico. The reason: These projects were located within the Navajo Nation and were proposed without first consulting with the tribe. FERC said it was “establishing a new policy that the Commission will not issue preliminary permits for projects proposing to use Tribal lands if the Tribe on whose lands the project is to be located opposes the permit.”
-Written by Emily Benton Hite, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Saint Louis University; and Denielle Perry Associate, Professor at the School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University.​

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Why the tiny Shoshone Power Plant’s matters for Colorado River water rights

… This year Western Slope leaders, led by the Colorado River District, struck a $99 million deal to buy a tiny hydro plant’s water rights from Xcel Energy and lease the water back to Xcel to generate electricity. As part of the deal, Shoshone’s rights would become the largest, most influential environmental water right in state history.  The change would protect fish and habitat, but it would also beef up water security on the Western Slope by protecting reliable westward flows for farmers and tourist economies. … The Colorado River District’s plan has drawn hawk-eyed attention from water players around the state who are keen on protecting their supplies. 

Related article: 

‘If You Unbuild It, They Will Come’
Scientists Chart Transformation of Klamath River and Its Salmon Amid Nation’s Largest Dam Removal Project

The Copco No. 1 dam on the Klamath RiverThe Klamath River Basin was once one of the world’s most ecologically magnificent regions, a watershed teeming with salmon, migratory birds and wildlife that thrived alongside Native American communities. The river flowed rapidly from its headwaters in southern Oregon’s high deserts into Upper Klamath Lake, collected snowmelt along a narrow gorge through the Cascades, then raced downhill to the California coast in a misty, redwood-lined finish.

Upper Colorado River States Add Muscle as Decisions Loom on the Shrinking River’s Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Upper Basin States Seek Added Leverage to Protect Their River Shares Amid Difficult Talks with California and the Lower Basin

The White River winds and meanders through a valley.The states of the Lower Colorado River Basin have traditionally played an oversized role in tapping the lifeline that supplies 40 million people in the West. California, Nevada and Arizona were quicker to build major canals and dams and negotiated a landmark deal that requires the Upper Basin to send predictable flows through the Grand Canyon, even during dry years.

But with the federal government threatening unprecedented water cuts amid decades of drought and declining reservoirs, the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are muscling up to protect their shares of an overallocated river whose average flows in the Upper Basin have already dropped 20 percent over the last century.

They have formed new agencies to better monitor their interests, moved influential Colorado River veterans into top negotiating posts and improved their relationships with Native American tribes that also hold substantial claims to the river.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2024
Field Trip - March 13-15

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamThis tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand 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 some 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.

Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
7830 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89123
Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

A Colorado River Veteran Moves Upstream and Plunges into The Drought-Stressed River’s Mounting Woes
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Chuck Cullom, a longtime Arizona water manager, brings a dual-basin perspective as top staffer at the Upper Colorado River Commission

Chuck Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. With 25 years of experience working on the Colorado River, Chuck Cullom is used to responding to myriad challenges that arise on the vital lifeline that seven states, more than two dozen tribes and the country of Mexico depend on for water. But this summer problems on the drought-stressed river are piling up at a dizzying pace: Reservoirs plummeting to record low levels, whether Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam can continue to release water and produce hydropower, unprecedented water cuts and predatory smallmouth bass threatening native fish species in the Grand Canyon. 

“Holy buckets, Batman!,” said Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. “I mean, it’s just on and on and on.”

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand 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 some 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
Western Water Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Drought and climate change are raising concerns that a century-old Compact that divided the river’s waters could force unwelcome cuts in use for the upper watershed

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir that has seen its water level plummet after two decades of drought. Climate scientist Brad Udall calls himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

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

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

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. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

How Private Capital is Speeding up Sierra Nevada Forest Restoration in a Way that Benefits Water
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: A bond fund that fronts the money is expediting a headwaters restoration project to improve forest health, water quality and supply

District Ranger Lon Henderson with Tahoe National Forest points toward an overgrown section of forest within the Blue Forest project area. 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, stream-choking mudflows. 

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.

Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

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. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

New Leader Takes Over as the Upper Colorado River Commission Grapples With Less Water and a Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission

Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River CommissionAmy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.

Tour

Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

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 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.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water Magazine

The Colorado River: Living with Risk, Avoiding Curtailment
Fall 2017

This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future. 

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

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
Aquapedia background

Whiskeytown Lake

Photo Credit: Jenn Bowles, Executive Director

Whiskeytown Lake, a major reservoir in the foothills of the Klamath Mountains nine miles west of Redding, was built at the site of one of Shasta County’s first Gold Rush communities. Whiskeytown, originally called Whiskey Creek Diggings, was founded in 1849 and named in reference to a whiskey barrel rolling off a citizen’s pack mule; it may also refer to miners drinking a barrel per day. 

Aquapedia background

All-American Canal

As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, the Imperial Valley receives its water from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Rainfall is scarce in the desert region at less than three inches per year and groundwater is of little value. 

Aquapedia background Colorado River Basin Map

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam

Image shows Glen Canyon Dam with Lake Powell in the background.The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1964 created Lake Powell. Both are located in north-central Arizona near the Utah border. Lake Powell acts as a holding tank for outflow from the Colorado River Upper Basin States: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The water stored in Lake Powell is used for recreation, power generation and delivering water to the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona, and Nevada. 

Klamath River Basin

Cropland around Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon

The Klamath River Basin is one of the West’s most important and contentious watersheds.

The watershed is known for its peculiar geography straddling California and Oregon. Unlike many western rivers, the Klamath does not originate in snowcapped mountains but rather on a volcanic plateau. 

A broad patchwork of spring-fed streams and rivers in south-central Oregon drains into Upper Klamath Lake and down into Lake Ewauna in the city of Klamath Falls. The outflow from Ewauna marks the beginning of the 263-mile Klamath River.

The Klamath courses south through the steep Cascade Range and west along the rugged Siskiyou Mountains to a redwood-lined estuary on the Pacific Ocean just south of Crescent City, draining a watershed of 10 million acres. 

A bounty of resources – water, salmon, timber and minerals – and a wide range of users turned the remote region into a hotspot for economic development and multiparty water disputes (See Klamath River timeline).

Though the basin has only 115,000 residents, there is seldom enough water to go around. Droughts are common. The water scarcity inflames tensions between agricultural, environmental and tribal interests, namely the basin’s four major tribes: the Klamath Tribes, the Karuk, Hoopa Valley and Yurok. Klamath water-use conflicts routinely spill into courtrooms, state legislatures and Congress. 

In 2023, a historic removal of four powers dams on the river began, signaling hope for restoration of the river and its fish and easing tensions between competing water interests. In February 2024, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a “historic” agreement between tribes and farmers in the basin over chronic water shortages. The deal called for a wide range of river and creek restoration work and modernization of agricultural water supply infrastructure. 

Water Development

Farmers and ranchers have drawn irrigation water from basin rivers and lakes since the late 1900s. Vast wetlands around Upper Klamath Lake and upstream were drained to grow crops. Some wetlands have been restored, primarily for migratory birds.

In 1905, the federal government authorized construction of the Klamath Project, a network of irrigation canals, storage reservoirs and hydroelectric dams to grow an agricultural economy in the mostly dry Upper Basin. The Project managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation irrigates about 240,000 acres and supplies the Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Klamath River Basin

Water Management

Since 1992, federal mandates to restore populations of fish protected by the Endangered Species Act have led in some dry years to drastic cuts in water deliveries to Klamath Project irrigators.

Water in Upper Klamath Lake must be kept above certain levels for the endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers. Lake levels and Klamath River flows below Iron Gate Dam also must be regulated for the benefit of threatened coho salmon (See Klamath Basin Chinook and Coho Salmon).

Conflict

In 2001, Reclamation all but cut off irrigation water to hundreds of basin farmers and ranchers, citing a severe drought and legal obligations to protect imperiled fish. In response, thousands of farmers, ranchers and residents flocked to downtown Klamath Falls to form a “bucket brigade” protest, emptying buckets of water into the closed irrigation canal. The demonstrations stretched into the summer, with protestors forcing open the irrigation headgates on multiple occasions. Reclamation later released some water to help farmers.

Karuk fisheries workers netting salmon in Klamath River.In September 2002, a catastrophic disease outbreak in the lower Klamath River killed tens of thousands of ocean-going salmon. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations sued Reclamation, alleging the Klamath Project’s irrigation deliveries had violated the Endangered Species Act. The fishing industry eventually prevailed, and a federal court ordered an increase to minimum flows in the lower Klamath.

Compromise

The massive salmon kill and dramatic water shut-off set in motion a sweeping compromise between the basin’s many competing water interests: the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. The 2010 agreements included:

  • Removal of four hydroelectric dams
  • $92.5 million over 10 years to pay farmers to use less water, increase reservoir storage and help pay for water conservation and groundwater management projects.
  • $47 million over 10 years to buy or lease water rights to increase flows for salmon recovery.

Dam Removals

Congress never funded the two agreements, allowing the key provisions to expire. The restoration accord dissolved in 2016. The hydroelectric pact, however, was revived in an amended version that did not require federal legislation.

The new deal led to the nation’s largest dam removal project ever undertaken.

The Klamath's Copco No. 2 DamCalifornia and Oregon formed a nonprofit organization called the Klamath River Renewal Corporation to take control of the four essentially obsolete power dams – J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron Gate – and oversee a $450 million dam demolition and river restoration project.

Taking out the dams will open more than 420 miles of river and spawning streams that had been blocked for more than a century, including cold water pools salmon and trout need to survive the warming climate.  

Demolition crews took out the smallest dam in 2023 and the others were scheduled to come down by the end of 2024.

The images of yellow heavy machinery tearing into the dam’s spillway gates prompted a cathartic release for many who have been fighting for decades to open this stretch of the Klamath.

“I’m still in a little bit of shock,” said Toz Soto, the Karuk fisheries program manager. “This is actually happening…It’s kind of like the dog that finally caught the car, except we’re chasing dam removal.”

Publication

Looking to the Source: Watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
Published 2011

This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.

The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.

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

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 

Video

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.

Maps & Posters

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maps & Posters

Truckee River Basin Map
Published 2005

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues. 

Maps & Posters

Colorado River Basin Map
Redesigned in 2017

Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.

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.

The State Water Project is best known for the 444-mile-long aqueduct that provides water from the Delta to San Joaquin Valley agriculture and southern California cities. The guide contains information about the project’s history and facilities.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the Klamath River Basin
Published 2023

The Water Education Foundation’s second edition of the Layperson’s Guide to The Klamath River Basin is hot off the press and available for purchase.

Updated and redesigned, the easy-to-read overview covers the history of the region’s tribal, agricultural and environmental relationships with one of the West’s largest rivers — and a vast watershed that hosts one of the nation’s oldest and largest reclamation projects.

Dams

Folsom Dam on the American River east of Sacramento

Dams have allowed Californians and others across the West to harness and control water dating back to pre-European settlement days when Native Americans had erected simple dams for catching salmon.

Aquapedia background California Water Map

Hydroelectric Power

Power plant at Shasta DamHydroelectric power is a relatively pollution-free source of electricity generated at a comparatively low cost. Its ability to generate electricity, however, can drop significantly during a drought.

In 2022, hydropower accounted for more than 28% of all renewable electricity generation in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Aquapedia background

Yuba Accord and Yuba River

The Yuba Accord is a landmark agreement that balances the interests of environmental groups, agriculture, water agencies and hydroelectric operators relying on water from the Yuba River.  A tributary of the Feather River, the Yuba is located north of Sacramento.

Pieced together after two decades of lawsuits, the Yuba Accord allows for fresh water flows to support native fish while also providing water for hydropower, transfers and irrigation. The Accord took effect in 2008 after two years as a pilot project.

Aquapedia background Dams Shasta Dam

Trinity Dam and Trinity River

Though seemingly a long-way from California’s Central Valley, the Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and for hydropower production.

Constructed in the far northwest of California in the 1950s, Trinity Dam and Lewiston Dam, just downstream, increased the storage capacity of the federal Central Valley Project by more than 2.5 million acre-feet.

Western Water Magazine

Making the Connection: The Water/Energy Nexus
September/October 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

The Colorado River: Building a Sustainable Future
November/December 2009

Diverting water for farms and cities, generating hydro-electric power, supplying an ever-growing urban population and protecting endangered species have all shaped the development and management of the Colorado River we know today. How to sustain the system and build a resilient future for what is known as the “lifeline of the Southwest” is the task facing the region and the river’s multiple users.

Western Water Magazine

Turning Water into Power: Hydropower Projects Under Review
September/October 2005

Hydropower generation is prevalent in the West, where rapidly flowing river systems have been tapped for generations to produce electricity. Hydropower is a clean, steady and reliable energy source, but the damming of rivers has exacted a toll on the environment, affecting, among other things, the migration of fish to vestigial spawning grounds. Many of those projects are due to be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Turning Water into Power: Hydropower Projects Under Review
September/October 2005

Introduction

The vital importance of water in the West is a given. It is the basis upon which everything moves forward – the burgeoning subdivisions, the seemingly limitless acreage of fruits and vegetables and the remaining stretches of wilderness that support fish, fowl and wildlife. In addition to its life-sustaining properties, water, more specifically the force of moving water, plays a significant part of the nation’s power system by providing an inexpensive, reliable and renewable generation source.

Western Water Excerpt S. Joshua NewcomRita Schmidt Sudman

Shedding Light on the Link Between Water and Power in California
Sept/Oct 2001

Those on the California water insider track know all too well the fine line the state walks with regard to maintaining its water supply. Hydrologic conditions put California at the mercy of the weather and some are predicting this year could be the start of a dry cycle not just for the state, but the Southwest as a whole. Combine that with a regional dry spell in the Northwest and California’s power woes, and a potential recipe for disaster begins to solidify.