Topic: San Joaquin Valley


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 KVPR - Bakersfield

Nine years in, California’s groundwater sustainability overhaul is becoming a reality

For years, conversations about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – known commonly as SGMA – have largely taken a tone of speculation and even apprehension. The 2014 law, which aims to slow California’s unlimited tapping of underground aquifers, gives locally organized groundwater sustainability agencies until 2042 to overhaul pumping practices for the spectrum of groundwater users — from cities and rural communities to dairies, small farms and agricultural conglomerates. Ultimately, the consequences could be dire: the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California predicted even in the best-case scenario, as much as 500,000 acres of farmland may need to be fallowed in order to adequately reduce groundwater pumping. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: How powerful land barons shaped the epic floods in California’s Central Valley

In most parts of California, and indeed the United States, the idea that the government would largely cede to private companies management of a natural disaster that could decimate multiple towns, displace thousands of farmworkers and wreak destruction across hundreds of square miles would be unfathomable. But that has long been how things operate in the Tulare Lake Basin. Land barons, chief among them J.G. Boswell’s founder, seized control of the basin and its water generations ago and have since managed it with minimal government interference. … The flood-prone Tulare Lake Basin is the one part of the Central Valley that has a special exemption from state-required flood control plans, leaving the area without a clear public strategy for managing floodwaters.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Managing water and farmland transitions in the San Joaquin Valley

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval acknowledged the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s (SGMA) importance to the valley in his opening remarks. … As water supplies decline, said Central Valley Community Foundation CEO Ashley Swearengin, it is key to bring all the valley’s many players to the table to hammer out coping strategies. The need for coordination is paramount, given the magnitude of the challenge. As PPIC research fellow Andrew Ayres explained, reducing groundwater pumping ultimately will help the valley maintain its robust agricultural industry and protect communities. But even with new water supplies, our research found that valley agriculture will need to occupy a smaller footprint than it does now: at least 500,000 acres of farmland will likely need to come out of intensively irrigated production.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Why California can’t provide safe drinking water to all its residents

More than a decade after California became the first state in the nation to declare that access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water was a human right, about a million residents remain connected to failing water systems — many of which may increase their risk of cancer, liver and kidney problems, or other serious health issues. The number of failed water systems has jumped about 25% since 2021, an increase driven partly by the collection of more data. … The crisis has cast a harsh light on the state’s ability to provide clean and affordable drinking water to all its residents, particularly those in the Central Valley, where widespread contaminants afflict communities with substandard infrastructure and where the heavy use of agricultural fertilizers and fumigants, as well as the overpumping of aquifers, has worsened water quality.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water and high prices aid California potato farmers

After a four-year decline in potato production nationwide, this season’s crop appears poised to buck the trend, spurred by strong demand and improved water supplies. While higher processing contract prices are driving much of the increased acreage, California’s mostly fresh-market growers may see prices decline once harvest starts elsewhere, said Almuhanad Melhim, a fruit and vegetable market analyst for Rabobank’s RaboResearch division. … During the past few years, processors have been short on russet potatoes that go into french fries, so they snapped up fresh-market russet supplies, driving up fresh prices. To encourage more processed potato production this year, processors increased contract prices substantially.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Commentary: San Joaquin Valley farmers face challenges in managing water

… a conference held this past week at Fresno State, “Managing water and farmland transitions in the San Joaquin Valley,” drew a large crowd of growers and water district managers. The event was sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California [PPIC], a nonpartisan group that provides analysis on key issues facing the state.The PPIC’s report on the Valley’s water situation makes clear the stakes: Even if growers do everything right, a half million acres could go out of production because of water-supply shortages. … Using water wisely while re-purposing land properly will be the key issue facing San Joaquin Valley farmers for years to come. -Written by Tad Weber, The Bee’s opinion editor.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Oregon Capital Chronicle

U.S. Senate panel grapples with how to ensure access to water amid Western drought

Decades of drought in the West has made water quality and quantity a major issue requiring government funding and innovation to fix, members of a U.S. Senate panel said Wednesday. Demand for water in growing municipalities is stretching agricultural and tribal communities, while shrinking availability is leading to higher water prices, witnesses told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Water and Power Subcommittee. … Kyle Jones, the policy and legal director at the advocacy group Community Water Center, told the panel about a woman whose California well ran dry as her husband recovered from open-heart surgery. A new well would have required a $30,000 loan, he said.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Poplar digs up access to clean water

Residents can be flooded with new hope now that 12 years of planning is coming together to bring the [Tulare County] community improved access to accessible, clean water. A new well in Poplar had its groundbreaking on Monday, Sept. 18, to celebrate the increased access to clean water in the area. Poplar has been pursuing a new well for the last 12 years due to the high level of contaminants in the water. After years of planning, the community has now received assurance they will have safe drinking water for years to come.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Study: Thousands of California wells are at risk of drying up despite landmark water law

Even though California enacted sweeping legislation nearly a decade ago to curb excessive agricultural pumping of groundwater, new research predicts that thousands of drinking water wells could run dry in the Central Valley by the time the law’s restrictions take full effect in 2040. The study, published this month in the journal Scientific Reports, casts critical light on how the state is implementing the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The research reveals that plans prepared by local agencies would allow for heavy pumping to continue largely unabated, potentially drawing down aquifers to low levels that would leave many residents with dry wells.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Army Corps was unprepared for amount of seepage from Isabella Dam that is now swamping residents – SJV Water

Landowners and residents who live in front of the Auxiliary Dam at Lake Isabella are being swamped by “seepage” coming through the earthen dam that is ruining septic systems, causing sinkholes, clogging the area with weeds and breeding swarms of mosquitoes. They’ve tried working with the Army Corps of Engineers, which recently rebuilt the Auxiliary and main dams at a cost of nearly $300 million, but say they are getting stonewalled.

Aquafornia news Write for California

Blog: Everything you need to know about San Luis Reservoir

Nestled in the heart of California’s vast Central Valley lies a shimmering oasis, a testament to human ingenuity and the ongoing quest for water management: the San Luis Reservoir. This magnificent reservoir, holding both natural beauty and immense significance for the Golden State’s water system, is much more than just a large lake. Here’s everything you need to know about this impressive structure. The San Luis Reservoir was constructed as a result of a collaboration between the federal and state governments in the 1960s. It stands as a primary off-stream storage facility and is a key component of both the California State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP). The aim was to cater to the growing water demands of the state’s booming population and agricultural sectors.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Managing water and farmland transitions in the San Joaquin Valley

Successful implementation of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is vital to the long-term health of the San Joaquin Valley’s communities, agriculture, environment, and economy. But the transition will be challenging. Even with robust efforts to augment water supplies through activities like groundwater recharge, significant land fallowing will be necessary. How the valley manages that fallowing will be paramount to protecting the region’s residents—including the growers and rural, low-income communities who will be most directly impacted by the changes. With coordinated planning and robust incentives, the valley can navigate the difficult water and land transitions coming its way and put itself on a path to a productive and sustainable future.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tübatulabal tribe celebrates homecoming with return of a slice of its ancestral lands

Tribal members celebrated the return of more than 1,200 acres of their ancestral lands in the jagged hills above Weldon on Saturday in a ceremony marked with gratitude, emotion and prayer. Chairman Robert Gomez opened the event by thanking a large number of people who helped find, purchase and deed the land back to the Tübatulabal tribe, which has called the Kern River Valley home for more than 5,000 years. Western Rivers Conservancy was chief among those Gomez called out for their help in obtaining the land. Western Rivers, a non profit dedicated to restoring rivers, helped secure funding through the state Wildlife Conservation Board and Sierra Nevada Conservancy and facilitated the handover of the land to the tribe.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Assembly OKs mandate on future California oil well cleanups

California may put oil companies on the financial hook to plug and clean aging oil fields after lawmakers approved a measure meant to prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for orphaned wells. In a year that has been relatively quiet for climate legislation, the passage of Assembly Bill 1167 on Thursday night marked a win for environmentalists and communities mainly around Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley facing methane leaks from aging oil wells that require costly cleanup. … Orphaned wells, as they’re called, risk harmful leaks of oil, polluted water and methane often near residential areas. According to the Geologic Energy Management Division, known as CalGEM, California has plugged about 1,400 wells since 1977 at a cost of $29.5 million.

Aquafornia news Fresnoland

Advocates want water board diversity in California’s Central Valley

During three weeks in December and January, storms dumped 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow on California. With it came unwelcome floods for many communities of color. The winter and spring storms were a rare chance for drought-stricken communities to collect rainwater, rather than have their farms, homes and more overwhelmed by water. Much of the rain that fell instead overflowed in lakes and streams, leading to disaster in low-income Central Valley towns like Allensworth and Planada. In the aftermath of the damage, community leaders are reiterating a call to diversify water boards to give marginalized groups more power. The California State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees the distribution of water in the state, has acknowledged that its workforce does not reflect California’s racial composition.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tule River tribe suffers chronic water problems, even in record wet year

Despite a record snowpack that has kept the South Fork of the Tule River flowing at a steady clip, residents of the Tule River Reservation – who get 60 percent of their supplies directly from the river – were recently without water for eight days. The problem, ironically, was too much water. Specifically, from Hurricane Hilary. When the late summer storm drenched dry, burn-scarred mountainsides, the runoff brought a torrent of muck with it and fouled the reservation’s intake and treatment system. But Hilary was just the tribe’s most recent go-round with water problems from an outdated system built to serve a fraction of the homes now on the reservation.

Aquafornia news ABC30 - Fresno

Experts encourage boosters as COVID-19 detected in Madera County’s waste water

Medical experts in Central California are testing wastewater and have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health encouraged all California residents to vaccinate. Pharmacy retailer CVS also announced its plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots in its stores. Madera County Public Health Officer Simon Paul says it’s important to stay vigilant.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

East Orosi residents protest what they say is abusive, dysfunctional water district

Just as residents in rural East Orosi are getting some traction on drinking water issues, they are dealing with what they call abusive treatment over sewage services and they’ve had enough. At a recent protest during the East Orosi Community Services District meeting, about 40 residents laid out charges of mistreatment. They alleged the district has overcharged them and even threatened to call immigration services on some residents. They laid the blame at the feet of a single district employee and what they say is a dysfunctional board. The problem is apparently tangled up with conjoined water issues that have separate oversight authority – sewage and drinking water.

Aquafornia news Lodi News

Local water district continues to modernize delivery system

The North San Joaquin Water Conservation District recently received some help from the federal government to ensure its ratepayers continue to receive water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that the district has been awarded a $1 million grant to make repairs and upgrades to its irrigation system. The investment will help make critical improvements to upstream level control, gates, and flow meters to meet delivery needs and support effective, safe groundwater management, the agency said. Jennifer Spaletta, the district’s attorney, said the grant money will be used to build a lateral off the south distribution system located near Handel Road.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Floodplain work could start on two San Joaquin Valley rivers as soon as this week after state funding was approved

The state approved funding for a range of floodplain projects in the San Joaquin Valley, clearing the way for work to potentially begin as soon as this week. The state budget included $40 million for floodplain restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley, which would let rivers spread out over large swaths of undeveloped land to slow the flow and absorb the water.  On August 24, the California Wildlife Conservation Board voted to spend $21 million of the funding which will be doled out to six on-the-ground projects and 10 planning projects, all overseen by the nonprofit River Partners. The rest of the money will be voted on in November at another board meeting and is proposed for two land acquisitions. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Planning and luck kept Kern County’s flood-prone Lamont mostly dry this year

Of all the places that unexpectedly flooded this past year, there was one that unexpectedly did not – Lamont. Typically, heavy rain years kick up water in the Caliente Creek and it comes rushing east out of the Tehachapi Mountains, turns south under Highway 58 into a wide wash and floods out Lamont. Years ago, the water would have spread out like a sheet and continued south toward Arvin. But farmers built a levee along Mountain View Road and lined it with tamarisk trees. The structure is easily spotted on satellite map views of the area.

Aquafornia news Ridgecrest Independent

It’s time to pay for water: IWVGA begins making the difficult decisions

A difference of $38 million dollars in taxes to those in the Indian Wells Valley hung in the balance as the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority discussed funding options for the imported water pipeline project at the IWVGA’s board meeting on Aug. 23. The mood of the room reflected the gravity of the decision. Conversation slowed, political rivalries cooled, and board members asked the same clarifying questions from subject matter experts for a third or fourth time. Ultimately, too many questions remained on such an important decision, and so the IWVGA board tabled it until their next meeting on Sept. 13. No further delays will be possible; the IWVGA will need to make a decision at their September meeting.

Aquafornia news New York Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: America is draining its groundwater like there’s no tomorrow

Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view. Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a whole. The New York Times conducted a months-long examination … In California, an agricultural giant and, like Arkansas, a major groundwater user, the aquifers in at least 76 basins last year were being pumped out faster than they could be replenished by precipitation, a condition known as “overdraft,” according to state numbers.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Stay out, stay alive: A story of Kern County’s killer river

[W]hat makes the Killer Kern so dangerous? It’s a combination of several factors, according to WX Research, a weather and climate research group. One of the river’s defining features is its swift currents, which often reach over 8,000 cubic feet per second. Spring and summer are the most dangerous times, as snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains adds speed and lowers the water temperature — sometimes to 38 F. Swimmers are at risk of hypothermia or drowning by inhaling water in an instinctive gasp response to the cold. They can also get trapped by underwater hazards or caught in hydraulics, holes that form when the current turns back on itself as it meets an obstacle.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Poso: Kern County’s recurring problem creek in search of a solution

It’s no mystery why the tiny community of Pond was flooded out this last spring. All you had to do was drive four miles south to see the massive pile of debris at the Highway 43 bridge to know all that water churning through the normally dry Poso Creek was going bust out and go somewhere. It did. And it headed straight for Pond. For generations, the Poso has been an intermittent problem child – bone dry most years, then swelling beyond its banks about every six to 10 years, flooding towns, vital roadways and thousands of acres of farmland northwest of Wasco.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

New administrator assigned to help with Teviston’s water woes

The state has assigned an engineering company to take control of, and improve, the water system in the small Tulare County town of Teviston. Teviston, a rural community of about 460 people, has been hard hit by water problems for years. The town well broke down in the drought of 2021, leaving families without water and many without any way to cool themselves in soaring summer temperatures. Its water is also contaminated by 1,2,3, TCP, a dangerous carcinogen.  The state Water Resources Control Board gained the authority to appoint administrators to water systems in 2018. Appointed administrators take over struggling systems that can’t deal with issues ranging from water quality to technical and managerial challenges.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Modesto will raise water rates nearly 25% by 2027

The Modesto City Council voted Tuesday evening to boost water rates nearly 25% by 2027. The average residential bill will go from $67.13 a month now to $83.66 in 2027, a staff report said. Actual charges are much higher in the dry months and lower in other times. Under state law, the proposal would have died if a majority of the 75,584 customers filed protests. Only 144 did.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

New TID reservoir brings water saving benefits

Turlock Irrigation District’s newly completed $10 million Ceres Main Regulating Reservoir west of Keyes was unveiled Tuesday, with the district’s board of directors touring the new facility. Operational for nearly two weeks, the reservoir is capable of holding 220 acre feet of water (about 220 football fields each submerged in 1 foot of water) and is expected to save some 10,000 acre feet of water each year. … The reservoir will capture fluctuations in water flow from the Ceres Main Canal and pump the stored excess water back into the Ceres Main Canal to improve customer service downstream, lessen the need for groundwater pumping, and reduce water loss from the canal system.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: State Water Board selects Stantec to oversee drinking water system repairs in Teviston

Advancing the state’s commitment to securing safe drinking water for all Californians as a human right, the State Water Resources Control Board has appointed a water system administrator to the Teviston Community Services District in Tulare County to guide the system’s interim and long-term solutions to its drinking water problems. Stantec, an engineering consulting firm, will be the first water system administrator for Teviston, a small, rural community contending with system outages and groundwater contamination from 1,2,3 trichloropropane (TCP) since 2018. Since the pump failed on the system’s only well in June 2021, the SAFER program has funded hauled water delivery for residents through Self Help Enterprises.

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Friant-Kern Canal project makes progress

Decades of land subsidence caused by unregulated and continued groundwater overdraft have caused the Friant-Kern Canal, which is a 152-mile gravity fed canal, to sink as much as 14 feet in the area between Porterville and Delano. This damage has resulted in a 60% loss of carrying capacity along the canal. This water supply impact has caused harm, not only to the farms that make the economic engine in the San Joaquin Valley run, but also to cities and communities, whose primary source of drinking water is from the underground aquifer. Now a fix is underway and progress is being made, says Friant Water CEO Jason Phillips.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Watering 3 days a week doesn’t start until Oct. 19

Technically — and legally — Manteca households can’t revert to watering landscaping until Oct. 19. That’s because the municipal ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council Tuesday to make that happen under state law requires a second vote and then a 30-day period before it goes into effect. In the meanwhile, City Manager Toni Lundgren Thursday said municipal staff will not cite anyone that waters a third day. … An unless three of the council members flip their vote on the second reading of the ordinance likely to take place Sept. 19, it will be legal to water three days a week starting Oct. 19.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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. 


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.