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 Western Farm Press

Study offers insights on nitrate contamination

With California enduring record-breaking rain and snow and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently easing restrictions on groundwater recharge, interest in “managed aquifer recharge” has never been higher. This process – by which floodwater is routed to sites such as farm fields so that it percolates into the aquifer – holds great promise as a tool to replenish depleted groundwater stores across the state. But one concern, in the agricultural context, is how recharge might push nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater supply. Consumption of well water contaminated with nitrates has been linked to increased risk of cancers, birth defects and other health impacts.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Groundwater recharge benefits Roseville, Region

Our water managers have been investing in groundwater infrastructure for the past two decades, and with consistent investments, we’re now seeing the fruits of our labor. During the recent severe weather conditions, we replenished the groundwater basin and stored surface water for future use, thanks to our Aquifer Storage and Recovery investments. In just the first week of March, we banked 44 million gallons of water and doubled that amount this week. With 88 million gallons of banked water, it can supply about 732 homes annually. We’ve been saving water like this for a while now. In fact, this past January, we saved enough water to supply 1,000 homes annually. And a year ago, we had surplus surface water and stored a significant amount, equivalent to 160 Olympic-sized pools. 

Aquafornia news KVPR - Fresno

For a San Joaquin Valley community, the largest grant in its history could mean reliable water

Tim Prado … lives in Lamont, a community nestled among the oil wells and almond orchards of eastern Kern County. This region has struggled with arsenic and other contaminants in its groundwater. But recently, a $25 million dollar grant from the state’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund gave Prado a tool in his fight for drinking water, since he is also the chair of Lamont Public Utility District. … Joaquin Esquivel is the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board and a son of immigrant farm workers himself. He was recently at a site where a water well will be built in Lamont. He spoke about the drinking water challenges facing rural California. … Esquivel says the agency is making strides in its quest to ensure water access for everyone.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increases water allocations for 2023

The Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday water allocations to the Central Valley Project will increase thanks to the incredible amount of rain and snow the state has received. The initial allocation issued Feb. 22 was conservative due to below-average precipitation in February, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The increase is due to the persistent wet weather that dominated the end of February and almost all of March. The atmospheric river events have greatly boosted reservoir levels, including the two main reservoirs in the state north and south of the delta – Shasta and San Luis, respectively. … The latest allocations raised irrigation water service to 80% from 35% of their contract total, and municipal and industrial water service to 100% from 75% of their historic use.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

California governor cuts Central Valley floodplain funds

In a move that upset and baffled conservationists and floodplain advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his 2023-24 budget proposal, eliminated all $40 million that had been allocated for San Joaquin Valley floodplain restoration.  This year’s floods have highlighted the need for improved — and more equitably distributed — flood protection efforts throughout California. Restoring floodplains, many experts agree, is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect communities from flooding.  San Joaquin Valley lawmakers of both parties and local leaders say Newsom’s budget cut could endanger their communities, and that it signals a disparity in how the state distributes funding for flood protection. San Joaquin Valley communities vulnerable to flooding are largely home to underserved, low-income Latinos. 

Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: Repurposing cropland in California: a solution for everyone?

[A]gricultural practices, especially in California, must be updated to survive the future. One powerful change that is growing momentum is strategic cropland repurposing. Doing cropland repurposing right can benefit many, including landowners. … Cropland retirement has direct negative effects on agricultural revenues and farmworker employment, with ripple effects in other sectors that depend on agriculture (such as transportation and agricultural services). But cropland retirement also means a decrease in pesticide, synthetic fertilizers, and water use that can bring significant environmental and local public health benefits. How do we weigh these scenarios and decide if cropland repurposing makes sense?

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California farmers flood fields to boost groundwater basin

A field that has long grown tomatoes, peppers and onions now looks like a wind-whipped ocean as farmer Don Cameron seeks to capture the runoff from a freakishly wet year in California to replenish the groundwater basin that is his only source to water his crops. Taking some tomatoes out of production for a year is an easy choice if it means boosting future water supplies for his farm about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of Fresno. He’s pumping 300 acre-feet a day — enough to supply hundreds of households for a year — from the gushing North Fork of the Kings River onto former vegetable fields and others dotted with pistachio trees, which can withstand heavy flooding.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

The cure for winter flooding might be in this swamp — if California actually funds it

In little pockets in the state, people like [Matt Kaminski, a biologist from Ducks Unlimited] are reworking the land yet again to bring back a version of California’s past, in service of the future. By allowing rivers to spread out, flows are diverted from downstream communities, replenishing groundwater and staving off unwanted floods. “These wetlands,” Kaminski likes to say, “act as a sponge.” And the state agreed. In September, the California Wildlife Conservation Board earmarked $40 million for the nonprofit River Partners to spend on similar projects in the San Joaquin Valley. But in the governor’s proposed budget released in January, that funding was axed.

Aquafornia news Reuters

California farmers flood their fields in order to save them

When Don Cameron first intentionally flooded his central California farm in 2011, pumping excess stormwater onto his fields, fellow growers told him he was crazy. Today, California water experts see Cameron as a pioneer. His experiment to control flooding and replenish the ground water has become a model that policy makers say others should emulate. With the drought-stricken state suddenly inundated by a series of rainstorms, California’s outdated infrastructure has let much of the stormwater drain into the Pacific Ocean. Cameron estimated his operation is returning 8,000 to 9,000 acre-feet of water back to the ground monthly during this exceptionally wet year, from both rainwater and melted snowpack. That would be enough water for 16,000 to 18,000 urban households in a year.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Is California still in a drought? Map shows latest conditions ahead of more rain, snow

For the first time in more than two years, much of the southwest portion of California is free of both drought and “abnormally dry” conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties are drought-free. San Diego and Los Angeles counties, although they show improvement in the last seven days, haven’t completely shaken “abnormal dry” and “moderate drought” statuses. The bird’s eye view: Every week, California moves further away from its once drought-stricken conditions. Most of the central Sierra, foothills, Central Valley and the entire coast have exited drought conditions. Roughly 64% of the state is drought-free.

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Aquafornia news Smithsonian Magazine

Are floating solar panels the future of clean energy production?

Floating solar panels placed on reservoirs around the world could generate enough energy to power thousands of cities, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature Sustainability. Called floating photovoltaic systems, or “floatovoltaics,” these solar arrays function the same way as panels on land, capturing sunlight to generate electricity. … The new research shows this buoyant technology has the potential to create vast amounts of power and conserve water—without taking up precious space on land. … A handful of countries are already answering that question by using floating solar panels in a limited capacity… California plans to test a similar idea in which solar panels will be placed above irrigation canals.

Aquafornia news KVPR - Clovis

‘This is the community I grew up in.’ Lindsay mayor on managing floods in his city

The city of Linsday in eastern Tulare County is one of several in the region to experience extreme flooding during the recent storms this month. In the brief pause in rain, the city declared a state of emergency to prepare for a new storm this week. But for some residents, the damage is already done. In this interview, KVPR’s Esther Quintanilla spoke with Lindsay City Mayor Hipolito Cerros to hear how he’s leading his community through this time.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore drought-to-deluge impacts & opportunities on Central Valley Tour

The feast or famine nature of California water has never been more apparent than now. After three years of punishing drought, the state has been slammed by a dozen atmospheric rivers. On our Central Valley Tour next month, you will see the ramifications of this nature in action. Focusing on the San Joaquin Valley, the tour will bring you up close to farmers, cities and disadvantaged communities as well as managers trying to capture flood waters to augment overpumped groundwater basins while also protecting communities from damaging flood impacts. Despite the recent rains, the San Joaquin Valley most years deals with little to no water deliveries for agricultural irrigation and wetland habitat management. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Forget all the rain and snow, California is still short of water

During a winter of blizzards, floods and drought-ending downpours, it’s easy to forget that California suffers from chronic water scarcity — the long-term decline of the state’s total available fresh water. This rainy season’s inundation isn’t going to change that. … It’s all about groundwater. It is the long-term disappearance of groundwater that is the major driver behind the state’s steady decline in total available fresh water, which hydrologists define as snowpack, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater combined. … The gains made during wet years simply can’t offset the over-pumping during the dry years in between. In fact, the state’s groundwater deficit is now so large that it will never be fully replenished.
-Written by Jay Famiglietti, a global futures professor at Arizona State University. ​

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Here’s why farm water use reports are exaggerated

You may have heard it repeatedly through local and national news outlets or from organizations critical of California’s agricultural water use. At the height of a historic drought in 2015, for example, The Washington Post published a report titled “Agriculture is 80% of water use in California.” And a 2022 report by Food and Water Watch, titled “These industries are sucking up California’s water and worsening drought,” again noted that, “in California, 80% of our water goes toward agriculture.” Really? Before we explain just how much that 80% figure is taken out of context, this fact is worth noting: Water for farmers in California produces by far America’s largest food supply, including staples that are affordable, safe, nutritious and essential for our daily lives.

Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Westlands new general manager hired from Mojave Water Agency

The Westlands Water District board of directors has elected its newest general manager — also the organization’s first woman to serve in the role. Allison Febbo comes to Westlands by way of the Mojave Water Agency north of San Bernardino, where she is currently general manager. Before that, she was the deputy operations manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley operations office. She has nearly 25 years of experience in natural resources, hydrology and water operations. Febbo took the position with Mojave Water Agency on Dec. 1, 2021, according to the Victorville Daily Press.

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Aquafornia news AgWeb

California dairy farmers prayed for rain – now it’s forcing some to evacuate

Not long ago, California dairy producer Ryan Junio prayed for rain. The ongoing water scarcity challenges that faced the Golden State was the No. 1 concern for this Tulare County dairy farmer. “As a dairy producer, water scarcity is an ever-growing challenge and is my top concern,” Junio said last summer. Junio wouldn’t have thought that nine months later he would be dealing with a different water crisis, as massive flooding has wreaked havoc on California’s largest dairy hub, Tulare County, home to 330,000-plus dairy cows. Recently Junio’s farm, Four J Jerseys, which consists of two dairies located in Pixley and home to 4,200 cows, had to evacuate one dairy that sits south of the Tule River.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Towns in California’s Central Valley face flood crisis, forcing thousands to flee

Thousands of people in the rural San Joaquin Valley have been forced to leave their homes as rivers and creeks have swelled from recent storms, putting neighborhoods and farms under water — and more wet weather looms. The flooding was most severe in Tulare County, where over the weekend scenes played out of residents being plucked from high water by rescuers in boats, dairy workers rustling cattle out of swampy fields, and backhoes pouring dirt to repair storm-damaged levees…. The widespread flooding comes as severe storms continue to pound the region while huge volumes of water from California’s highest peaks pour out of the nearby Sierra Nevada. The river channels and extensive berms and levees designed to corral floodwaters have been overwhelmed.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Ugly deeds, politics and high drama swirl amid the waters of a re-emerging Tulare Lake

The drama was high on the Tulare Lake bed Saturday as flood waters pushed some landowners to resort to heavy handed and, in one instance, illegal tactics, to try and keep their farm ground dry — even at the expense of other farmers and some small communities. Someone illegally cut the banks of Deer Creek in the middle of the night causing water to rush toward the tiny town of Allensworth. The levee protecting Corcoran had its own protection as an armed guard patrolled the structure to keep it safe. At the south end of the old lake bed, the J.G. Boswell Company had workers drag a piece of heavy equipment onto the banks of its Homeland Canal to prevent any cuts that would drain Poso Creek water onto Boswell land.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: As drought retreats across California, flood risk rises

Though California may be ending its winter with quenched reservoirs and near record snowpack, meteorologists are warning that the state will face increased flooding risk in the coming months as Sierra Nevada snowmelt fills rivers and streams. On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s spring flood outlook reported that drought conditions will continue to improve in much of the state, but the potential for flooding will worsen in the face of heavy snowpack and elevated soil moisture. … The severity of that flooding remains to be seen, however, and depends on a variety of weather factors, experts say. … Potential triggers for rapid snowmelt could be an early season heat wave or another series of warm storms, Swain said …

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Aquafornia news The Weather Channel

How recent floods will recharge California groundwater

The State Water Resources Control Board has approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River so they can percolate down to aquifers. The plan would divert 600,000 acre feet of water — or more than the 191 billion gallons supplied to the city of Los Angeles each year. … Newsom also has signed an executive order temporarily lifting regulations and setting clear conditions for diverting floodwater without permits to recharge groundwater storage. Groundwater accounts for as much as 60% of California’s water supply during dry times. The aquifers usually refill when rain and floodwater percolates through the soil and into the basins. As California’s drought lingered, the basins weren’t recharging.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Water is life! Exploring modern Water management from ridgetop to river mouth in the Sacramento Valley

Last summer Governor Newsom released California’s Water Supply Strategy–which calls for the modernization of our water management system. We know that the Sacramento Valley continues to modernize everything we do, from our farms, communities and businesses, to the way we approach water. These improvements include adopting improved water efficiency, irrigation systems, and tools to measure water use. We are planting new varieties that are more productive and produce more crop per drop. We are investing millions to improve water delivery systems for the environment as well as for farms, cities, and disadvantaged communities.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Restore California’s floodplains to capture more stormwater

The southern Sierra Nevada is covered with the deepest snowpack in recorded history, and the rest of the range is not far behind. When all that snow melts, where will it go? You can read the answer in the landscape of the Central Valley. To the eye it is nearly flat, covered by layers of gravel, silt and clay washed from the mountains over the eons by rain and melting snow. … The solution is shockingly simple, relatively cheap — compared with the cost of cataclysmic floods — and surprisingly non-controversial. We just haven’t yet done it on the scale that’s needed. California needs to restore its floodplains. Not the whole valley floors, and not as they were in the pre-development era. But it needs to have many more acres of land reserved for floodwater.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Evacuations near California dam as storm breaks rainfall records

The 11th atmospheric river storm of the season left a trail of soggy misery in California as it broke decades-old rainfall records and breached levees this week. In the Tulare County city of Porterville, residents on both sides of the Tule River were ordered to evacuate Wednesday morning as levels rose at Lake Success, sending water running over the spillway at Schafer Dam. … Lake Success saw a significant increase in inflows overnight, peaking at nearly 19,800 cubic feet of water rushing in per second Wednesday morning, according to state data. Visalia and Porterville have declared a state of emergency. The increased flow from the spillway is adding more water to the river and tributaries below, both of which are already full from the last storm, Monteiro said, adding that there is “flood concern.”

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Aquafornia news The Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Why rain-on-snow floods from atmospheric rivers could get much worse

California’s latest atmospheric rivers are sending rainfall higher into the mountains and onto the state’s crucial snowpack. The rain alone is a problem for low-lying areas already dealing with destructive flooding, but the prospect of rain on the deep mountain snow has triggered widespread flood warnings. When rain falls on snow, it creates complex flood risks that are hard to forecast. Those risks are also rising with climate change. For much of the United States, storms with heavy rainfall can coincide with seasonal snow cover. When that happens, the resulting runoff of water can be much greater than what is produced from rain or snowmelt alone. The combination has resulted in some of the nation’s most destructive and costly floods, including the 1996 Midwest floods and the 2017 flood that damaged California’s Oroville Dam.
-Written by Keith Musselman, an assistant professor in geography, mountain hydrology and climate change at the University of Colorado Boulder. ​

Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: California’s agriculture has outstanding economic performance, but at what cost?

The San Joaquin Valley in California (southern Central Valley) is the most profitable agricultural region in the United States by far with a revenue of $37.1 billion in 2020. The San Joaquin Valley itself generates more agricultural revenue than any other state, and more than countries like Canada, Germany, or Peru. Other agricultural regions of California are also very profitable, such as the Sacramento Valley (northern Central Valley), the Salinas Valley, and the Imperial Valley. However, this economic profit has a steep health and environmental toll, and that toll is paid for by the residents of rural communities in California. The three regions with the worst air quality (by year-round particle pollution) in the United States are in the San Joaquin Valley, corresponding to five of its eight counties.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California to store San Joaquin River floods as groundwater

Fresno County’s newest large-scale water storage project is happening below ground. With California inundated by rain and snow, state and federal water regulators hatched a plan to help replenish underground aquifers further depleted by heavy agriculture pumping during the recent drought. In an agreement announced last week, more than 600,000 acre-feet of floodwater from the San Joaquin River system will be diverted and allowed to soak back into the earth in areas with permeable soils and wildlife refuges. How much water is 600,000 acre-feet? Enough to overflow Millerton Lake, which stores 520,000 acre-feet at capacity. Or enough to meet the annual needs of more than 1 million average households.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: How California’s winter rains will revive Tulare Lake

Spanish soldier and California explorer Pedro Fages was chasing deserters in 1772 when he came across a vast marshy lake and named it Los Tules for the reeds and rushes that lined its shore. Situated between the later cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, Tulare Lake, as it was named in English, was the nation’s largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It spread out to as much as 1,000 square miles as snow in the Sierra melted each spring, feeding five rivers flowing into the lake. Its abundance of fish and other wildlife supported several Native American tribes, who built boats from the lake’s reeds to gather its bounty.
-Written by Dan Walters, a CalMatters columnist. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Damage from “severe breach” of Friant-Kern Canal construction at Deer Creek difficult to assess

An unfinished section of the new Friant-Kern Canal suffered a “severe breach” at Deer Creek in Tulare County Friday night as the normally dry creek swelled with rain and snowmelt and overran its banks into the construction zone. “This was worse than the one before,” said Johnny Amaral, Chief Operating Officer of the Friant Water Authority, at the authority’s executive committee meeting on Monday. “We haven’t gotten a handle on it yet but it’s tough to do anything out there right now with what we’re expecting tomorrow.”

Aquafornia news Growing Produce

California’s blueprint for ag growth rooted in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The atmospheric rivers that flowed over California in January dumped about a foot of rain — equal to an entire year’s average — in many parts of the state’s parched Central Valley, which encompasses only 1% of U.S. farmland but produces 40% of the nation’s table fruits, vegetables, and nuts. With February, ordinarily the second wettest month, still to be counted, talks of all the land that will have to fallowed as a result of the drought have quieted for now. But most Golden State growers have come to realize that droughts will simply be a part of farming going forward, and the safety net is gone. That safety net was groundwater pumping. For more than a half-century, farmers in the Central Valley, the multi-faceted state’s chief production area, have been pumping more water from aquifers than can be replenished, causing wells to be drilled deeper and deeper.

Aquafornia news Fairfield Daily Republic

Delta tunnel project up for Solano County board review

Solano County supervisors are scheduled Tuesday to receive an update on the latest Delta tunnel project. “The Delta Conveyance Project is the latest iteration of an isolated conveyance by the state Department of Water Resources to remove freshwater flows from the Delta for use in central and Southern California,” the staff report to the board states. “The (Delta Conveyance Project) includes constructing a 45-mile long, 39-foot diameter tunnel under the Delta with new diversions in the North Delta that have a capacity to divert up to 6,000 cubic feet (of water) per second and operating new conveyance facilities that would add to the existing State Water Project infrastructure.” 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: An epic snowpack may test water management in the San Joaquin Valley

Water policy wonks like us at PPIC spend an extraordinary amount of time analyzing information from the past, trying to understand the present, and modeling or speculating about the future. All this work goes toward identifying policy changes that might help California better manage its water. But for all our efforts, nothing improves our understanding of water like a “stress test,” whether that test is severe drought or extreme wet. And it is starting to look like we are going to get one of those stress tests this spring in the San Joaquin Valley. As news outlets have been reporting for some time, there is an “epic” snowpack in the central and southern Sierra Nevada… And while Californians have been laser focused on managing drought over the past decade, it’s now time to start thinking about what to do with too much water, at least in the San Joaquin River and Tulare Lake basins.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valadao’s take on Biden’s Valley water grab: Where’s the beef?

The Biden administration’s move to throw out the Trump-era biological opinions that govern California’s water flow is nothing more than a political move to Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford).  In an upcoming interview on Sunrise FM, Valadao discussed the history of the biological opinions and the Congressional investigation into the Biden administration’s decision.  The backstory: The latest biological opinions which govern the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project were signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, capping the process of formulating the new opinions that started under President Barack Obama.  When President Joe Biden took office two years ago, his administration quickly began the process of removing the 2019 biological opinions to revert back to the previous opinions issued in 2008 and 2009.  

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Gavin Newsom waives permits to put California flood water underground

California’s severely depleted groundwater basins could get a boost this spring, after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order waiving permits to recharge them. State water leaders hope to encourage local agencies and agricultural districts to capture water from newly engorged rivers and spread it onto fields, letting it seep into aquifers after decades of heavy agricultural pumping. … To pull water from the state’s network of rivers and canals for groundwater recharge, state law requires a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife. Many local agencies lacked the permitting during January storms, but this month’s atmospheric rivers and near record snowpack promises new opportunities to put water underground.

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Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Petition approved to capture flood flows, recharge groundwater

To capitalize on strong flows resulting from higher-than-average snowpack, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a petition by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert over 600,000 acre-feet of San Joaquin River flood waters for wildlife refuges, underground storage and recharge. With this approval, the State Water Board has authorized nearly 790,000 acre-feet in diversions for groundwater recharge and other purposes since late December 2022 – the amount of water used by at least 1.5 million households in a single year.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Helping the San Joaquin Valley find new uses for fallowed farmland

In Sarge Green’s 40-plus year career, he’s worn an astonishing number of hats. Now a water management specialist with California State University, Fresno, Sarge has worked on water quality issues at the regional water board, served as general manager of an irrigation district, and managed two resource conservation districts (RCDs). He’s also a director for the Tule Basin Land and Water Conservation Trust and the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. He’s been a long-time partner with the PPIC Water Policy Center in our San Joaquin Valley work as a trusted member of our research network. Sarge remains deeply involved in efforts to help San Joaquin Valley farms and communities cope with the challenges of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We spoke with him about a pressing issue in the valley: how to manage farmland that will be transitioning out of intensive irrigation.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valley’s water managers celebrate winning key SGMA approval from Calif. regulators

In light of last week’s decisions regarding the groundwater sustainability plans, groundwater managers in Fresno County are celebrating.  The backstory: The California Department of Water Resources announced its decisions for the groundwater sustainability plans for 10 basins in the Central Valley, giving the green light to the Kings Subbasin and Westside Subbasin, both of which are anchored in Fresno County. Groundwater sustainability plans are required by 2014’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and govern how agencies in critically overdrafted areas achieve groundwater sustainability.  The big picture: The basins that received approval from the state will move forward to the implementation phase while those that were deemed inadequate will face direct oversight from the State Water Board.

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Aquafornia news Vox

Who’s really using up the water in the American West?

The Western United States is currently battling the most severe drought in thousands of years. A mix of bad water management policies and manmade climate change has created a situation where water supplies in Western reservoirs are so low, states are being forced to cut their water use. It’s not hard to find media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas. But when a team of researchers looked at water use in the West, they uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes. Only 14 percent of all water consumption in the Western US goes to residential, commercial, and industrial water use. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Central Valley farmworkers struggle to recover after floods

In 1910, the Los Angeles real estate developer J. Harvey McCarthy decided that this small agricultural town in the Central Valley would be his “city beautiful,” a model community and an automobile stop along the road to Yosemite. An infusion of money brought Planada a bank, hotel, school, church and its own newspaper, the Planada Enterprise, by the following year. A celebration for the town’s first anniversary drew an estimated 10,000 people (though Planada had only several hundred residents) as the city had become the best-known place in Merced County. But McCarthy eventually abandoned the community, located nine miles east of Merced, leaving its settlers to pick up the pieces. It remained a farming town and is now home to 4,000 mostly low-income and Spanish-speaking residents who work at nearby orchards.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR and partners promote California’s hidden water resource during Groundwater Awareness Week 2023

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today kicked off National Groundwater Awareness Week 2023 with an engaging educational event held at the California Natural Resources Agency headquarters in Sacramento. The event featured an array of groundwater partners who provided presentations describing their work in groundwater and why groundwater is such an important water resource in California. After the presentations, the in-person audience visited educational stations where they engaged with the day’s speakers and other groundwater professionals.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Could feds and farmers join forces to put groundwater back in Central Valley aquifers?

Jennifer Peters signed on to have her Madera ranch become the site of an experiment in replenishing groundwater in California’s Central Valley. Though this pilot program led by a subdivision of the United States Department of Agriculture is far from the first effort to address the depletion of groundwater stores, it offers farmers like Peters hope for the future of agriculture in the region. … Peters is a fourth-generation farmer who operates Markarian Family LP with her father and son. They cultivate wine grapes and almonds, crops that require irrigation to grow in the Central Valley. … The search for water has led growers to dig deep into underground water supplies. Many aquifers, geological structures that hold groundwater, are so depleted in the Central Valley that they are considered at an “all time low” or “much below normal,” … 

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Farm town residents block water rate hike but are still stuck with a massive water debt

The western Fresno County community, where nearly half the residents live in poverty, is already carrying a water debt of  $400,000. That debt has been incurred over the last few years as El Porvenir has had to buy surface water on the open market and pay for expensive treatment. The town, along with nearby Cantua Creek, was supposed to be getting water from two new groundwater wells by this time. But the well project, which began in 2018 and was supposed to be completed in 2021, was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, residents have had to continue relying on the expensive surface water.  Fresno County buys about 100 acre feet of water each year for the towns from Westlands Water District at $432 per acre foot.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Friday Top of the Scroll: State rejects local plans for protecting San Joaquin Valley groundwater

State water officials on Thursday rejected six local groundwater plans for the San Joaquin Valley, where basins providing drinking and irrigation water are severely depleted from decades of intensive pumping by farms. The plans — submitted by local agencies tasked with the job of protecting underground supplies — outline strategies for complying with a state law requiring sustainable groundwater management. The Department of Water Resources deemed the plans inadequate … Groundwater depletion has hurt the San Joaquin Valley’s small, rural communities, home to many low-income Latino residents who have been forced to live on bottled water and drill deeper wells, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

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Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

El Dorado Irrigation District crews tend to canals in winter weather

Crews with the El Dorado Irrigation District are working to clear snow and debris from the flumes and canals that deliver water to its customers throughout the latest round of winter weather. Matt Heape, a hydro operations and maintenance supervisor for the district, said the focus Tuesday was taking care of a 22-mile canal system. … To do that, he explained, crews used snowcats to get to remote, wooden locations, sometimes having to snowshoe in further to reach the canals and the surrounding walkways. Much of the day included clearing walkways, plowing snow and keeping systems clear, Heap said.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers expected to get increased water allocations

Winter storms that bolstered the Sierra Nevada snowpack and added to California reservoirs prompted federal and state water managers to announce increases in anticipated water allocations for the 2023 growing season. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week announced an initial allocation of 35% of contracted water supplies for agricultural customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The announcement brought a measure of certainty for farmers, ranchers and agricultural water contractors, after officials provided zero water allocations for agriculture from the federal Central Valley Project in 2021 and 2022.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: How California’s Big Ag wants you to think about all this rain

Despite the continued heavy winter rain and snow throughout California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently extended his executive orders from 2022 that declared a drought emergency statewide. He also asked the state water board to waive water flow regulations intended to protect salmon and other endangered fish species, as well as San Francisco Bay and Delta estuary overall. Some viewed these moves as pragmatic steps to avoid “wasting” the bounty of California’s rains out to sea. Others saw them as a declaration of war against the health of the bay.  In fact, a war against the bay has been going on for decades. Newsom’s order was merely the latest skirmish. The war’s primary aggressors are agricultural interests in the Central Valley.
-Written by Howard V. Hendrix, the author of six novels as well as many essays, poems and short stories. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State will pay some valley farmers not to farm in attempt to save groundwater

More state money is flowing to the valley to take land out of production in an attempt to ease demand on groundwater. The state Department of Water Resources (DWR) is starting a new program called LandFlex which will pay up to $25 million in incentives to farmers to fallow crops.  On February 23, DWR announced three grants from the program, all of which are going to San Joaquin Valley groundwater agencies.  Madera County groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) will receive $9.3 million, Greater Kaweah GSA will receive $7 million and Eastern Tule GSA will receive $7 million. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

A California tunnel could save stormwater for millions. Why is it so divisive?

As drought-weary Californians watched trillions of gallons of runoff wash into the Pacific Ocean during recent storms, it underscored a nagging question: Why can’t we save more of that water for not-so-rainy days to come? But even the rare opportunity to stock up on the precious resource isn’t proving enough to unite a state divided on a contentious idea to siphon water from the north and tunnel it southward, an attempt to combat the Southwest’s worst drought in more than a millennium. The California Department of Water Resources said such a tunnel could have captured a year’s supply of water for more than 2 million people. The proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration — one that would cost $16 billion to help 27 million water customers in central and southern California — is spurring fresh outrage from communities that have fended off similar plans over four decades, including suggestions to build other tunnels or a massive canal. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Education on water solutions vital for California Latinos

Generations of Californians have taken for granted how water is engineered to enable the grand agricultural nature of this state. Now our water system suffers from severe drought and reduced snowpacks. The Colorado River is in peril. Wells are going dry. Water is getting contaminated. Land is losing value. People are losing livelihoods. Such dilemmas are exacerbated in disadvantaged communities. Large Central Valley growers overpump water from wells in direct violation of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Meanwhile, families in farmworker towns go without clean and affordable water. They still pay high water bills while resorting to bottled water to cook, bathe and drink provided by government, nonprofits and labor unions.
-Written by Victor Griego, founder of Water Education for Latino Leaders.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

San Joaquin Valley projected to lose 20% of water by 2040

An updated report on the San Joaquin Valley’s water crisis shows the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is not enough and additional water trading measures will need to be taken in order to stabilize local agricultural economies. The Public Policy Institute of California put out a policy brief on the future of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Its analysis of the next 20 years indicates that annual water supplies for the Valley could decline by 10 to 20%. The Valley has been long understood to be the breadbasket of the United States and is home to the nation’s top three agricultural counties. However, without more innovative solutions, the Valley will likely have to fallow 900,000 acres of farmland and and cost 50,000 jobs leading to a major loss in the local economies The report indicates that the loss of almost a million acres is unavoidable…

Aquafornia news CalMatters

This reservoir on the Sacramento River has been planned for decades. What’s taking so long?

Last century, California built dozens of large dams, creating the elaborate reservoir system that supplies the bulk of the state’s drinking and irrigation water. Now state officials and supporters are ready to build the next one. The Sites Reservoir — planned in a remote corner of the western Sacramento Valley for at least 40 years — has been gaining steam and support since 2014, when voters approved Prop. 1, a water bond that authorized $2.7 billion for new storage projects.  Still, Sites Reservoir remains almost a decade away: Acquisition of water rights, permitting and environmental review are still in the works. Kickoff of construction, which includes two large dams, had been scheduled for 2024, but likely will be delayed another year. Completion is expected in 2030 or 2031.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Newsom cares more about almond growers than California’s salmon fishery

Gov. Gavin Newsom bills himself as a protector of wildlife, so you wouldn’t think he’d take water from baby salmon and give it to almonds. Or to pistachios, or cotton or alfalfa. Especially when California was just drenched with the wettest three-week series of storms on record and was headed into another powerful soaking of snow and rain. But Newsom and his water officials still contend we’re suffering a drought — apparently it’s a never-ending drought. So, they used that as a reason last week to drastically cut river flows needed by migrating little salmon in case the water is needed to irrigate San Joaquin Valley crops in summer.
-Written by columnist George Skelton. 

Aquafornia news Patch - Castro Valley

State, federal water deliveries increased again

State and federal water managers announced Wednesday increased deliveries for millions of Californians in response to hopeful hydrologic conditions that materialized over the past several weeks. After a series of powerful storms brought rain and snow to much of California in December and January, increased reservoir levels led the state’s Department of Water Resources to set its delivery forecast at 30 percent of requested water supplies for the 29 public water agencies that draw from the State Water Project to serve 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KVPR - Bakersfield

Breaking down the story of Mira Bella’s drinking water problems

You see them all over the San Joaquin Valley: Sparkling new housing developments promising luxury living outside the big cities. But a recent investigation from our non-profit reporting partners shows the risks of building communities in areas with unreliable access to drinking water. Back in the 1980s, county officials knew the risks of building homes in the Mira Bella development near Millerton Lake in the foothills of Fresno County, but they greenlit the project anyway—and now residents and taxpayers are paying the price. In this interview, KVPR’s Kerry Klein talks with the reporters who produced this story, Jesse Vad of SJV Water and Gregory Weaver of Fresnoland, about the lengths Mira Bella residents are going to to solve their water problems, and what it demonstrates about who does and does not have access to drinking water in California.

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Tule River Tribal Rights bill reintroduced in Congress

An effort that has lasted more than 50 years to secure water rights for the Tule River Indian Reservation continues. And it’s hoped the passage of a bill that has been reintroduced can prevent litigation happening between the Tribe and the U.S. Government. U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein both of California have re-introduced legislation to formally recognize the Tule River Tribe’s reserved water rights to 5,828 acre-feet/year of surface water from the South Fork of the Tule River, the Tule River Water Rights Settlement Act. For decades, the Tule River Tribe has worked with the federal government and downstream water users to enact the settlement agreement. In introducing the bill, Padilla’s office stated the legislation would avoid costly and adversarial litigation for the tribe and the U.S. government.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Bakersfield to take a deep dive on the Kern River – supplies, demands and rights

The Bakersfield City Council at its meeting Wednesday will likely approve a $288,350 contract to conduct a detailed study of the city’s water supplies and demands with a strong focus on Kern River operations. Though the proposed study, on the consent agenda, isn’t in direct response to a lawsuit filed last year against the city by Water Audit of California over the river, the study could answer some questions posed in the lawsuit. The Water Audit suit alleges the city has been derelict by not considering the public in how it operates the river. The lawsuit doesn’t demand money. Rather it seeks to stop water diversions from the river temporarily while the court orders the city to study how river operations have affected fisheries, the environment and recreational uses.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Shrinking water supply will mean more fallow fields in the San Joaquin Valley

Downpours or drought, California’s farm belt will need to tighten up in the next two decades and grow fewer crops. There simply won’t be enough water to sustain present irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater is dangerously depleted. Wells are drying up and the land is sinking in many places, cracking canals. Surface water supplies have been cut back because of drought, and future deliveries are uncertain due to climate change and environmental regulations. … Agriculture is water intensive. And water is becoming increasingly worrisome in the West, particularly with overuse of the Colorado River. There’s plenty of water off our coast, but we’ve only begun to dip our toe into desalination.
-Written by columnist George Skelton.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Parched California misses a chance to store more rain underground

It sounds like an obvious fix for California’s whipsawing cycles of deluge and drought: Capture the water from downpours so it can be used during dry spells. Pump it out of flood-engorged rivers and spread it in fields or sandy basins, where it can seep into the ground and replenish the region’s huge, badly depleted aquifers. … Yet even this winter, when the skies delivered bounties of water not seen in half a decade, large amounts of it surged down rivers and out into the ocean. Water agencies and experts say California bureaucracy is increasingly to blame — the state tightly regulates who gets to take water from streams and creeks to protect the rights of people downriver, and its rules don’t adjust nimbly even when storms are delivering a torrent of new supply.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Fracking wastewater causes lasting harm to key freshwater species

Extracting fossil fuels from underground reservoirs requires so much water a Chevron scientist once referred to its operations in California’s Kern River Oilfield “as a water company that skims oil.” Fracking operations use roughly 1.5 million to 16 million gallons per well to release oil and gas from shale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All that water returns to the surface as wastewater called flowback and produced water, or PFW, contaminated by a complex jumble of hazardous substances in fluids injected to enhance production, salts, metals and other harmful elements once sequestered deep underground, along with their toxic breakdown products. 

Aquafornia news Western Water

California water agencies hoped a deluge would recharge their aquifers. but when it came, some couldn’t use it

It 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. … The barrage of water was in many ways the first real test of groundwater sustainability agencies’ plans to bring their basins into balance, as required by California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The run of storms revealed an assortment of bright spots and hurdles the state must overcome to fully take advantage of the bounty brought by the next big atmospheric river storm.  

Related articles: 

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 Douglas E. Beeman 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Kesterson Reservoir

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

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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.