Topic: San Joaquin Valley

Overview

San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley stretches from across mid-California between coastal ranges in west and the Sierras on the east. The region includes large cities such as Fresno and Bakersfield, national parks such as Yosemite and Kings and fertile farmland and multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.

The federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project (about 30 percent of SWP water is used for irrigation) helped deliver water to the valley. Today, San Joaquin Valley crops include grapes, tomatoes, hay, sugar beets, nuts, cotton and a multitude of other fruits and vegetables. At the same time, water used to grow these crops has led to the need for agricultural drainage.

 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation selects Rain Emerson as deputy area manager for South-Central California Area Office

The Bureau of Reclamation today announced the selection of Rain Emerson to assume the role of deputy area manager for the South-Central California Area Office for the California-Great Basin Region. The role will serve as a deputy to the SCCAO area manager and advise on planning, coordinating, managing and directing of program activities. The office encompasses the San Francisco Bay-Delta, San Joaquin Valley, and the south coast area including Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Aquafornia news AgNet West Radio Network

‘Collaboration for the Sake of Success’ is Critical to Water Resilience 

In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on May 8, Westlands Water District, Metropolitan Water District, and Friant Water Authority agreed to improve collaborations on surface, groundwater, transfers, and exchanges of water from the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California. Furthermore, a second MOU was signed between Metropolitan and Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley, a coalition that aims to advance water accessibility across the state. The MOU intends to identify, develop, and initiate water projects for the Central Valley to solidify water resilience. The MOUs are the first step to initiating discussions on water supply challenges and improvements that can be made for residents, agriculture, and industry parties who all rely on some share of California water allocations.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Newest Calif. state park saved this tiny town from disaster

Under a shaded refuge adjacent to a still pond in the Central Valley, dozens of California State Parks officials and nonprofit leaders assembled Wednesday to laud the first state park to open in a decade. Among the beaming faces was Lilia Lomeli-Gil, a community leader representing the tiny town 5 miles away that, thanks to the park’s debut, is being transformed. If Merced is the “Gateway to Yosemite,” then Grayson is the gateway to Dos Rios State Park. The 1,600-acre property lies within the floodplains outside Modesto and features the intersection of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers. The park’s proximity to Grayson offers the town a sense of renewal. Dos Rios will lure visitors off Interstate 5 and provide residents with a communal backyard haven. Efforts to restore the floodplain have already shown signs of success in protecting Grayson from disaster. The town owes part of its livelihood to restoring the original habitat and defending itself from flooding.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Monday Top of the Scroll: Proposed state cuts would sever water lifeline for tens of thousands of disadvantaged San Joaquin Valley residents

More than 20,000 San Joaquin Valley residents could be left high and dry, literally, by Sacramento politicians intent on using $17.5 million that had paid for water trucked to their homes to help fill California’s gaping two-year $56 billion deficit. A local nonprofit that has been hauling water to those residents  sent a letter recently to Governor Gavin Newsom and top leaders in the Legislature begging them to reinstate the money in the ongoing budget negotiations. “Cutting funding for such a crucial program would have devastating effects on rural and disadvantaged communities by immediately cutting them off from their sole source of water supply, and doing so with no warning,” states the June 11 letter from Self-Help Enterprises, a Visalia-based nonprofit that helps low-income valley residents with housing and water needs. 

Aquafornia news Wall Street Journal

California is finally awash in water, but its farmers can’t get it

California is awash in water after record-breaking rains vanquished years of crippling drought. That sounds like great news for farmers. But Ron McIlroy, whose shop here sells equipment for plowing fields, knows otherwise. “I’ll be lucky if I survive this year,” he said.  Illustrating how broken California’s vast water-delivery system is, many farmers in Central Valley, America’s fruit and vegetable basket, will get just 40% of the federal water they are supposed to this year. Why? Endangered fish. The pumps that transport water from wet Northern California to the semiarid south have been drastically slowed to protect threatened migrating smelt, measuring up to 3 inches, and steelhead. That means growers in the U.S.’s richest farming area are having to plant fewer crops even as they are surrounded by water.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Self-Help Enterprises to administer emergency water program in Tulare County

Self-Help Enterprises has launched a partnership with three groundwater sustainability agencies in the Kaweah Subbasin to expand assistance for rural residents who lose water due to lowering groundwater levels.  The East Kaweah, Greater Kaweah and Mid-Kaweah groundwater sustainability agencies will invest up to $5.8 million annually to ensure that water users in the area will receive emergency water supplies if their wells go dry. The big picture: Along with the emergency water supplies, Self-Help Enterprises will also provide a long-term drinking water solution through its water support program. Self-Help Enterprises has over a decade of experience operating its water support program to provide emergency water supply, interim supply – which includes tanks and hauled water – and long-term solutions, such as working with well drillers to replace failed wells.

Related groundwater articles: 

Aquafornia news Bay City News

Report shows some progress on groundwater storage

The good news is that the San Joaquin Valley has managed to store a little more groundwater since the drought of 2016. The bad news is that it is hard to keep account of what’s working and what’s not. On Tuesday, the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit policy research organization, released an update report on the replenishment of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the areas of the state that is heavily dependent on groundwater. The report also identified those basins best suited to accept water recharge operations, with the highest number being in the eastern and southern regions of the valley. 

Related groundwater articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State allegedly ghosted Merced’s attempts to get permission to clear creeks for months before the floods

Evidence is stacking up against the state in one of multiple lawsuits over last year’s devastating floods in Merced County. One of the most stunning new pieces of evidence is a string of 12 emails from Merced County staff that went ignored by the state for more than four months before last year’s floods. The lawsuit was filed against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on behalf of the City of Merced, a local elementary school and 12 agricultural groups. All the plaintiffs took significant damage from flooding after water backed up in clogged waterways and broke through, or overtopped creek banks and levees. The flooding came primarily from Bear Creek and Black Rascal Creek, both of which have flooded before. Flooding from Miles Creek also damaged nearly every home in the small, rural town of Planada.

Related flood control article: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Sparks fly as Tulare County agency is accused of being “unable and unwilling” to curb over pumping

Fireworks were already popping between board members of a key Tulare County groundwater agency recently over an 11th hour attempt to rein in pumping in the severely overdrafted area. The main issue at the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) meeting June 6 was whether to require farmers in subsidence prone areas to install meters and report their extractions to the agency, which is being blamed for almost single handedly putting the entire subbasin in jeopardy of a state takeover. … In the end, the Eastern Tule board voted 6-0 to require all landowners in the subsidence management area along the canal to meter their wells and report extractions by January 1.

Related groundwater articles: 

Aquafornia news Legal Planet

Blog: A brazen California water heist revealed, prosecuted & punished

Recently, former Panoche Drainage District general manager Dennis Falaschi pled guilty in federal district court in Fresno to having conspired to steal  millions of gallons of publicly-owned water from California’s Central Valley Project (CVP) for private gain. This surreptitious water theft apparently had been going on for well over two decades before Falaschi was finally brought to justice. … Unfortunately, the Falaschi case and conviction are not isolated incidents.  To the contrary, illegal diversion, use and black market sales of the public’s finite and precious water supplies have quite likely gone on for decades, if not centuries. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Madera farmers and groundwater agency in limbo waiting for court decision on fees

The end of a two-year legal fight over who should pay, and how much, to replenish the groundwater beneath Madera County could be in sight. A motion to dismiss the lawsuit by a group of farmers against the county is set to be heard June 18.  The outcome could determine whether Madera County, which acts as the groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) for hundreds of thousands of acres across three water subbasins, can finally move forward on a host of projects to improve the water table per the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). From the farmers’ point of view, the outcome of this case could make or break their farms, some that have been in their families for generations.

Related groundwater article: 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

California’s new 1600-acre state park set to open this week

Californians can soon enjoy a new state park at the heart of the Central Valley, the first in about a decade. The Dos Rios preserve, about 90 minutes east of San Francisco, is a lush floodplain filled with green grass, shrubs and native trees like cottonwood, willows and valley oaks. Visitors can hike through miles of trail beginning this Wednesday, June 12. The park is located eight miles east of Modesto near the convergence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers. Until about a decade ago, Dos Rios was a dairy and cattle ranch owned by farmers who grew tomatoes and almonds. But year after year, floods swept through, damaging the crops. In 2012, the owners sold all 1,600 acres to River Partners, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to conservation.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Madera sinkhole swallows trailer. 2nd hole in two weeks

A sinkhole opened in the roadway in Madera on Monday, causing a trailer of fertilizer to fall into the hole, according to the California Highway Patrol. A truck driver suffered minor injuries in the crash about 10:25 a.m. on Avenue 13 west of Granada Drive, and the street was expected to be closed for weeks as piping below ground was damaged, according to the CHP and city officials. The city of Madera also asked its residents to reduce water use to aid workers trying to fix the pipe, which does not carry drinking water, officials said on social media. “This is NOT a drinking water issue; drinking water remains safe and unaffected,” the city said on the Madera police Facebook page. “However, to assist in the repair efforts and prevent further complications, which could result in sewage backup, we ask that you please refrain from non-essential water use.”

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Farmers in Tulare County to test groundwater market they hope could help keep them in business and replenish the aquifer

How will selling groundwater help keep more groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley’s already critically overtapped aquifers? Water managers in the Kaweah subbasin in northwestern Tulare County hope to find out by having farmers tinker with a pilot groundwater market program. Kaweah farmers will be joining growers from subbasins up and down the San Joaquin Valley who’ve been looking at how water markets might help them maintain their businesses by using pumping allotments and groundwater credits as assets to trade or sell when water is tight.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Fresnoland

Most of state’s unsafe water systems in California’s Central Valley

… A state audit from the California Water Resources Control Board released last year found that over 920,000 residents faced an increased risk of illness–including cancer, liver and kidney problems–due to consuming unsafe drinking water. A majority of these unsafe water systems are in the Central Valley. The matter has prompted community leaders to mobilize residents around water quality as politicians confront imperfect solutions for the region’s supply. Advocates point out that impacted areas, including those in Tulare County, tend to be majority Latino with low median incomes. … This year’s extreme weather has only worsened the valley’s problems. The storms that hit California at the start of this year caused stormwater tainted with farm industry fertilizer, manure and nitrates to flow into valley aquifers. 

High-Tech Mapping of Central Valley’s Underground Blazes Path to Drought Resilience
Aerial Surveillance Reveals Best Spots to Store Floodwater for Dry Times but Delivering the Surplus Remains Thorny

Helicopter towing an AEM loopA new underground mapping technology that reveals the best spots for storing surplus water in California’s Central Valley is providing a big boost to the state’s most groundwater-dependent communities.

The maps provided by the California Department of Water Resources for the first time pinpoint paleo valleys and similar prime underground storage zones traditionally found with some guesswork by drilling exploratory wells and other more time-consuming manual methods. The new maps are drawn from data on the composition of underlying rock and soil gathered by low-flying helicopters towing giant magnets.

The unique peeks below ground are saving water agencies’ resources and allowing them to accurately devise ways to capture water from extreme storms and soak or inject the surplus underground for use during the next drought.

“Understanding where you’re putting and taking water from really helps, versus trying to make multimillion-dollar decisions based on a thumb and which way the wind is blowing,” said Aaron Fukuda, general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, an early adopter of the airborne electromagnetic or AEM technology in California.

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

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.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Western Water 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 Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map Gary Pitzer

Bruce Babbitt Urges Creation of Bay-Delta Compact as Way to End ‘Culture of Conflict’ in California’s Key Water Hub
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Former Interior secretary says Colorado River Compact is a model for achieving peace and addressing environmental and water needs in the Delta

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt gives the Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.  Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful, provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Delta tunnels plan.

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

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

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

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.

Announcement

Examine Key California Rivers on the Last Two Water Tours of 2018
Join us as we explore the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers; hear from farmers, water managers, environmentalists

Northern California Tour participants pose in front of Shasta Dam.The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are the two major Central Valley waterways that feed the Delta, the hub of California’s water supply network. Our last water tours of 2018 will look in-depth at how these rivers are managed and used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and talk to people with expertise on these rivers.

Early bird prices are still available!

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 California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  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.

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 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

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

Tour of the San Joaquin River is Almost Sold Out
Our final 2017 tour dives deep into river restoration

A few tickets are still available for our Nov. 1-2 San Joaquin River Restoration Tour, a once-a-year educational opportunity to see the program’s progress first-hand. The tour begins and ends in Fresno with an overnight stay in Los Banos. 

Announcement

Agricultural History and Habitat Restoration Come to Life on San Joaquin River Tour
Our two-day tour in November takes you into the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley

Explore more than 100 miles of Central California’s longest river while learning about one of the nation’s largest and costliest river restorations. Our San Joaquin River Restoration Tour on Nov. 1-2 will feature speakers from key governmental agencies and stakeholder groups who will explain the restoration program’s goals and progress.

Announcement

Explore Key California Rivers on the Last Two Water Tours of the Year
Join us as we meander along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers

The Sacramento and San Joaquin are the two major rivers in the Central Valley that feed the Delta, the hub of California’s water supply network.

Our last two water tours of 2017 will take in-depth looks at how these rivers are managed and used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and talk to people with expertise on these rivers.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Preservation and Restoration: Salmon in Northern California
Winter 2017

Protecting and restoring California’s populations of threatened and endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead trout have been a big part of the state’s water management picture for more than 20 years. Significant resources have been dedicated to helping the various runs of the iconic fish, with successes and setbacks. In a landscape dramatically altered from its natural setting, finding a balance between the competing demands for water is challenging.

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.

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

Contaminants

Contaminants exist in water supplies from both natural and manmade sources. Even those chemicals present without human intervention can be mobilized from introduction of certain pollutants from both point and nonpoint sources.  

Aquapedia background

Arsenic Contamination

Both the drought and high nitrate levels in shallow groundwater have necessitated deeper drilling of new wells in the San Joaquin Valley, only to expose water with heightened arsenic levels. Arsenic usually exists in water as arsenate or arsenite, the latter of which is more frequent in deep lake sediments or groundwater with little oxygen and is both more harmful and difficult to remove.

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. 

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.”

Western Water Magazine

Rewriting History: California’s Epic Drought
September/October 2015

This issue examines the impacts of California’s epic drought, especially related to water supplies for San Joaquin Valley rural communities and farmland.

Publication

The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.

Tour Images from the Central Valley Tour

Central Valley Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 3-day, 2-night tour, which we do every spring, travels the length of the San Joaquin Valley, giving participants a clear understanding of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

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

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.

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.

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 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 California Groundwater Map

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 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 Valley

Located in the middle of California, the San Joaquin Valley is bracketed on both sides by mountain ranges. Long and flat, the valley’s hot, dry summers are followed by cool, foggy winters that make it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

The valley stretches from across mid-California between coastal ranges in west and the Sierras on the east. The region includes large cities such as Fresno and Bakersfield, national parks such as Yosemite and Kings, millions of people, and fertile farmland.

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.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway is one of four major North American migration routes for birds, especially waterfowl, and extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, to Mexico and South America. Each year, birds follow ancestral patterns as they travel the flyway on their annual north-south migration. Along the way, they need stopover sites such as wetlands with suitable habitat and food supplies. In California, 90 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.

Aquapedia background

Merced River

The Merced River is one of three major rivers that empty in the San Joaquin Valley from the east, along with the Tuolumne and the Stanislaus rivers. 

With the help of these tributaries, the San Joaquin River irrigates millions of acres of cropland in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquapedia background

Kesterson Reservoir

The former Kesterson Reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley provides a cautionary tale of the environmental impacts of agricultural drainage.

Aquapedia background

California Aqueduct

The California Aqueduct, a critical part of the State Water Project, carries water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltato the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

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

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

How Much Water Does the Delta Need?
July/August 2012

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.

Western Water Magazine

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater banking, a water management strategy with appreciable benefits but not without challenges and controversy.

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

Salt of the Earth: Can the Central Valley Solve its Salinity Problem?
July/August 2007

This Western Water looks at proposed new measures to deal with the century-old problem of salinity with a special focus on San Joaquin Valley farms and cities.