Topic: San Joaquin River Restoration


San Joaquin River Restoration

The San Joaquin River drains California’s Central Valley, but has been negatively impacted by dam construction, poor streamflows, and poor water quality.

Formerly home to the nation’s largest spring-run of Chinook salmon, the river was dammed in 1942 to provide water to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley.

In the 1980s, environmental organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit to restore water flows to a 60-mile dry stretch of river and to boost the dwindling salmon populations. The lawsuit was settled in 2006.

The San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement’s goals were to refill the 60-miles of dry river bed and salmon runs while minimizing water supply impacts to farmers. Congressional action set the plan in motion.

Water releases are now used to restore the river and to provide habitat for naturally reproducing populations of self-sustaining Chinook salmon and other fish. Long-term efforts also include measures to reduce or avoid adverse water supply impacts from the restoration flows.

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.


Restoring a River: Voices of the San Joaquin

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


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

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

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. 


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).

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.

Aquapedia background

San Joaquin River and San Joaquin River Restoration Program

San Joaquin RiverFlowing 366 miles from the Sierra Nevada to Suisun Bay, the San Joaquin River provides irrigation water to thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farms and drinking water to some of the valley’s cities. It also is the focal point for one of the nation’s most ambitious river restoration projects to revive salmon populations.

Western Water Magazine

Water Policy 2007: The View from Washington and Sacramento
March/April 2007

This issue of Western Water looks at the political landscape in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento as it relates to water issues in 2007. Several issues are under consideration, including the means to deal with impending climate change, the fate of the San Joaquin River, the prospects for new surface storage in California and the Delta.

Western Water Magazine

Farms, Fish and Restoration: The Friant Decision and the Future of the San Joaquin River
November/December 2004

This issue of Western Water explores the implications for the San Joaquin River following the decision in the Natural Resources Defense Council lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and Friant Water Users Authority that Friant Dam is required to comply with a state law that requires enough water be released to sustain downstream fish populations.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

The Friant Decision and the Future of the San Joaquin River
Nov/Dec 2004

The San Joaquin River provides the water that enables farms up and down the San Joaquin Valley’s eastern side to produce a substantial agricultural bounty. For more than 50 years, the majority of the river has been halted at Friant Dam and diverted north and south for use by farms and homes throughout parts of five counties, in the process making that part of the valley the most productive agricultural region in the world.