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 Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Is SGMA compatible with farmland preservation?

As implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) gets underway, questions are emerging about what it will mean for lands protected under the Williamson Act, California’s chief farmland preservation policy. For nearly 60 years, the Williamson Act has helped protect 16 million acres—roughly half of the state’s crop- and rangelands—from development. But as SGMA’s limitations on groundwater extraction go into effect—and as warmer, more intense droughts begin to push land out of irrigation–the context within which the program operates is shifting. In July, we gathered a group of agriculture, solar, and county stakeholders to explore the interplay between the Williamson Act and SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley. Here is what we learned.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Video: Where does the water go? How the Kern River is divvied up

Where does the water go? The Kern River’s abrupt stop, practically mid-channel, can be jarring. The full river suddenly goes dry just outside Bakersfield leaving a dusty channel snaking through the heart of town. Why? Where does all that water go? Who owns it? How does it all work? Our video project, “Law of the River,” answers those questions and more as we look at the river’s history, how it operates, who owns the water and what the future may hold. This is the first in a series of videos that will look at each stop along the way for Kern River flows.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Out in the fields, contemplating humanity and a parched almond farm

California is amid its driest period since record-keeping began, a drought made drier by climate change. In June, the state curtailed water allotments for thousands of users across the state, including in agricultural areas like the San Joaquin Valley, where Christine [Gemperle] farms. … The narrative around the almond industry’s excessive consumption of water frustrates Christine; everything in American refrigerators takes water to produce, and she thinks the media wields statistics about almond farming’s use of water like a weapon. Christine takes it personally. Water scarcity has undoubtedly put strain on the farm; last year she ripped out one orchard early to save water.

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Aquafornia news UC Davis News

Blog: Agave – The new drought-tolerant California crop?

Agriculture in California faces an uncertain future as drought, wildfires and other climate extremes become more commonplace in the West. But a fledgling industry focused on growing and distilling agave plants, which are used to produce tequila and mezcal in Mexico, could be California’s answer to fallowed fields and a lack of water. Earlier this year a group of growers, distillers and retailers formed the California Agave Council to foster collaboration and offer a chance to share knowledge among members who previously had no formal network.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Crops fallowed, herds reduced as drought deepens

California farmers and ranchers affected by a third consecutive year of drought and related emergency curtailments of water deliveries have planted fewer acres, fallowed fields or reduced livestock herds to make it through the season. Siskiyou County rancher Ryan Walker, president of the county’s Farm Bureau, said farmers affected by emergency water curtailments—readopted in July by the State Water Resources Control Board—face water shortages and high hay prices, which impact ranchers’ ability to maintain livestock herds.

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Blog: Central Valley subsidence could last longer than expected

Until the development of the major state and federal water projects that began delivering surface water to the area in the second half of the 20th century, the Central Valley relied almost exclusively on groundwater. Heavy pumping of groundwater has led to significant land subsidence throughout the valley, causing major damage in some areas to canals, aqueducts, and other infrastructure. This subsidence was particularly pronounced in the valley’s southern half, which is known as the San Joaquin Valley. By 1970, approximately half the San Joaquin Valley, or roughly 5,200 sq mi, had subsided by at least 1 ft, according to the website of the U.S. Geological Survey. Some locations had subsided by as much as 28 ft.

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

Bill would provide relief to farmworkers in drought-stricken California

[A]s climate change brings hotter, drier conditions, the American dream is getting harder to achieve in the Valley. Because of severe drought the past few years, farmers have left some fields unplanted. And with fewer acres to plant and harvest, many workers have had their hours cut or lost their jobs. … [State senator Melissa Hurtado] says many of these workers are struggling to pay rent and feed their families. So she’s proposed legislation that would provide qualified farmworkers with a $1,000 monthly stipend for three years.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California drought: Communities must rely on hauled, bottled water

Many small and rural communities across California are vulnerable to drought and water shortages as they lack the diverse water sources and infrastructure of big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. In some cases, these communities are forced to rely on bottled water or water hauled in from elsewhere, which experts say is costly and unsustainable. Data from the state water board’s 2022 “Drinking Water Needs Assessment” shows that nearly 90 water providers across the state, including six in the Bay Area, have had to resort to bottled or hauled-in water to fully meet their communities’ drinking water needs in the past three years.

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Aquafornia news California Water Research

Blog: Climate adaptation: match crops to climate

The megadrought in the West is a time of reckoning for farmers. … California is in a better position than western desert states, because some areas of the state have adequate rainfall. For California, the problem is not so much growing water-intensive crops, but growing them in the driest areas in the state. The arid scrubland on the southern floor of the San Joaquin Valley gets about 7-8 inches of rain on average. The farmland in this region was traditionally used for grazing and low-water use crops such as winter wheat. … The expansion of permanent crops has increased farm income, but has also been a major cause of groundwater depletion. 

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR launches new web-based mapping tool showing nearly 3,000 groundwater sustainability projects

A new web-based tool developed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will allow the public to explore thousands of groundwater projects across California to get a better understanding of one of the state’s most critical water supply resources. The virtual mapping tool is part of the State’s ongoing commitment to develop new, innovative solutions to provide information and resources to address the effects of California’s changing climate and ongoing severe drought.

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Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

California AG Bonta meets with Fresno residents in Calwa

California’s top law official met with southcentral Fresno residents Tuesday to discuss their environmental concerns — and promised to use his office to help them create healthier communities. … The group raised a number of environmental and health concerns during the hour-long meeting with Bonta, which was conducted in both English and Spanish. Some of the main concerns raised were: the public health impact of exposure to industrial and agricultural pollution, especially preventable diseases, the need for more pedestrian-safe roads, concerns about industrial growth in the area without community input, to the need for improved water quality and infrastructure in rural communities, and more.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Drought requires new strategies for managing cropland

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s largest agricultural region, but it’s facing an uncertain future. A combination of persistent drought and the rollout of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will increase regional water scarcity in the coming decades. Water scarcity will have a major effect on land use: At least half a million acres are projected to come out of irrigated production in the San Joaquin Valley by 2040. This raises a thorny question: What happens to all this newly fallowed land?
-Written by Andrew Ayres, a research fellow of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center; and Caitlin Peterson, associate director of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Will Kings County be the first region sent to state’s groundwater “cop”?

The prospect of being sent to California’s “groundwater cop” strikes dread in the hearts of most water managers. But for John Vidovich, having the Tulare Lake subbasin come under the glare of the State Water Resources Control Board may be the only way to end an irrigation practice by the J.G. Boswell Company that he says is wasteful, abusive and contributing to the sinking of an entire town. Boswell, which has not responded to requests for comment, pumps large amounts of groundwater into massive shallow ponds for later irrigation, something Vidovich, who runs Sandridge Partners, has complained about for years.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

A battle for safe drinking water grows heated amid drought in California’s Central Valley

Thousands of acres of crops, from corn to nectarines, surround Melynda Metheney’s community in West Goshen, California — one of the key battlegrounds where residents say irrigation and overpumping have depleted drinkable water. … In 2012, Community Water Center (CWC) told the Goshen community of about 3,300 that its water was contaminated with nitrates. Residents spent two years fighting to connect to Cal Water — the third largest regulated utility in the nation — and only some did. Some of Metheney’s West Goshen neighbors still don’t have well water.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

California water war: San Joaquin Valley landowners battle over scarce resource

Water is the lifeblood in the parched San Joaquin Valley, sustaining endless acres of trees, seeds and pastures that feed a hungry nation. But a controversial pipeline sits empty, as dry as dust, caught in an angry feud between two of California’s largest land barons, Silicon Valley developer and farmer John Vidovich and Pasadena-based longtime cotton king J.G. Boswell Company. Vidovich needs the pipe to move water. The Boswell Company wants it blocked, saying it threatens the company’s own water supplies, which run through a canal over the pipeline’s underground route. 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow – How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land. … In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news Valley Voice

South Valley in water crisis as systems fail

Small Valley communities are drying up. The latest town to find itself waterless is Tooleville, east of Exeter on Highway 65. In the middle of July, with temperatures soaring and the intense Valley summer in full swing, residents of the town found the well they rely on was delivering just a dribble where it was working at all. With the aid of Self-Help Enterprises, the town is now dependent on a pair of water tanks and costly daily deliveries of trucked-in water.

Aquafornia news The Business Journal

How a Madera farmer fought a new groundwater fee — and (sort of) won

A proposed fee system to manage irrigated land in Madera County has sparked a successful protest, leaving one groundwater agency unfunded and at least one farmer claiming the process was done with minimal notice. … Three newly formed groundwater sustainable agencies — Chowchilla Subbasin, the Madera Subbasin and the Delta Mendota Subbasin — are left with no funding for four ongoing groundwater projects required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It’s the County of Madera that oversees the land, said Stephanie Anagnason, director of water and natural resources for Madera County.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Effort to bring South Fork Kern River water to valley farmland buffeted by lawsuits, called a “joke”

Drought cut short a pilot program to bring South Fork Kern River water through Lake Isabella and down 60 miles to farmland northwest of Bakersfield. Now, a raft of lawsuits could upend the environmental impact report in support of the project, which has been a goal of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District since it bought the old Onyx Ranch in 2013. The project was doomed from the start, said one board member of the water district that led the lawsuit charge.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow: How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land…. In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Local residents among the most likely to drink harmful water

Rural residents in Tulare County are more likely to be exposed to harmful water than a third of the state’s population and the State Water Board has been slow to flow funds into areas to fix failing water systems. A report by the California State Auditor last month revealed Tulare County was among nine counties in the state that represented almost 90% of Californians vulnerable to water systems with poor water quality.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Farmland in transition—The San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s agricultural heartland and at the center of the state’s water challenges. As the region brings its groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), over half a million acres of irrigated farmland may need to come out of production. At a virtual event last week, PPIC researchers and a panel of local experts moderated by Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center, discussed how to manage this massive transition while reaping the greatest benefits from idled land and mitigating air quality concerns.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Flood irrigation has positive water impacts

Drive by a flooded almond orchard in the countryside surrounding Manteca, Ripon and Escalon and your first thought might be outrage.  After all, California is slipping deeper into a third year of a devastating drought.  Looks, however, can be deceiving.  What looks like a waste of water is actually helping keep water flowing to your home to wash clothes, drink, flush toilets, shower or bathe, and wash dishes and such if you live in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Desert groundwater agency to pay $8,500 per acre foot for valley water rights

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority in eastern Kern County has signed a “letter of intent” to buy the rights to 750 acre feet of state water for $6,396,000 from a State Water Project contractor in Kings County. The purchase is part of the authority’s plan to bring that overdrafted groundwater basin into balance. The seller is Utica J.L.J. LLC, which purchased the Jackson Ranch and is developing a truck stop and industrial center on 400 acres at Utica Avenue and Interstate 5, just south of Kettleman City.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Food choices are the real drivers of water usage

960,000 acres of land in California are used to produce alfalfa, using 2 million gallons of water per acre, per year, all of which goes to feed livestock. What kind of livestock? Mostly dairy cows, of which there are 2.5 million in California alone. … It turns out, states [author Richard] Oppenlander, “60 to 70 percent of California water goes to livestock and crops to feed them.” …Once I learned that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, (raising the cow, growing grain for the cow, cleaning the cow) buying non-dairy milk sounds like a much wiser choice. Once I learned that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, giving up meat altogether seems like the only choice.

-Written by Patsy Ouellette, a longtime environmental advocate.​

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Opinion: Calif.’s great water experiments have failed. It’s time for real solutions.

As California’s prolonged drought continues, the State is at a crossroads. Recent headlines have been dominated by devastating wildfires and a growing number of the State’s poorest communities without water.  These catastrophic conditions demand answers and solutions from our leaders. … With the cost of living continuing to climb, the San Joaquin Valley’s most vibrant sector – agriculture – cannot continue to feed our communities, state, nation, or the world, if we do not have the most basic resource necessary to grow food, water. 
-Written by William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms, director of the Westlands Water District, and chairman of the Valley Future Foundation.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Settlement blocks planned federal fracking leases in California

Leasing for new oil and gas drilling on federal land in central California is temporarily blocked under a settlement announced Monday between the state and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. … Fracking is the process of injecting a high-pressure mix of mostly water with some sand and chemical additives into rock to create or expand fractures that allow oil and gas to be extracted. It’s a controversial practice due to concerns about the injected chemicals contaminating groundwater.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

California’s megadrought is worse than you think

When Maria Regalado Garcia tried to wash the dishes in her California home one recent morning, only a trickle of water emerged from the kitchen faucet. Other taps in her Tooleville house in rural Tulare County ran similarly dry. … Garcia and her neighbors, who intermittently lose tap water at home, are among those most affected by a historic drought that’s blanketed the West, scorched California and caused a growing list of water troubles for residents and farmers.

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Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Unsafe drinking water is a reality for nearly a million Californians, especially in Central Valley, new audit finds

Nearly a million Californians have unsafe drinking water and the agency charged with helping them is ill-equipped to do so.  That’s according to a new state audit of the California Water Resources Control Board, which says 920,000 residents are at increased risk of liver and kidney problems — and even cancer — because they get water from systems that fail to meet contaminant standards for safe drinking water. The auditor says more than 800 water systems in the state are in that “failing” category, a number that has more than doubled in the last year.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Central Valley’s two major dam projects moving forward

It’s no simple feat to raise a dam.  In fact, it’s taken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 34 years to get from the first feasibility study to expand the dam at Lake Success in Tulare County to finally getting construction underway. The improvements to Lake Success’ Schafer Dam, named after longtime Tule River watermaster Richard L. Schafer, are needed to protect downstream communities in case of a flood, said Calvin Foster, southern operations branch chief for the Corps’ Sacramento District. …  On the second dam project, the Corps is also nearly finished with improvements to the two dams on Lake Isabella in Kern County. 

Aquafornia news GV Wire

Fresno County residents can get up to $2k for overdue water bills

A new Fresno EOC program is offering as much as $2,000 to help low-income residents pay past-due water and sewer bills. But you need to act quickly to receive the one-time grants, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The program ends in August 2023. Fresno EOC officials say the grants are for households that are in danger of losing or have lost their water services. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, about half a million Californians have had water shutoffs since 2019 due to nonpayment.

Aquafornia news KSBY - San Luis Obispo

Report revealing hundreds of failing water districts in California

A state audit found that nearly one million Californians have contaminated drinking water. The report found that 920,000 people could face health issues from unsafe drinking water. The California State Auditor found there are 370 failing water systems in California that are putting almost a million residents at risk. … The audit criticizes the State Water Resources Control Board for a lack of urgency in getting funding to these smaller systems, which often rely on well water.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

The future of San Joaquin Valley farming could be ‘dryland farming’

Often touted as the breadbasket of the world, California’s San Joaquin Valley is the most agriculturally productive region on Earth with over 250 different crops grown. But the area is also a well-irrigated desert, and years of below-average rain and snowfall have dried up its relatively few water sources. So far, farmers in the region have fallowed approximately 100,000 acres of farmland. Experts believe that by 2040, drought may force up to 500,000 acres to be fallowed. … The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released two reports and held a webinar Tuesday to discuss both fallowing of land and the resulting dust pollution as well as a solution: dryland farming.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Lawmakers call on Kern stakeholders to engage on water investment

Farmers and water managers may need to do more to engage with lawmakers from outside the Central Valley before the state Legislature can be persuaded to make important investments in water storage and other infrastructure projects, members of Kern’s Sacramento delegation told an audience Tuesday of the Water Association of Kern County. The three locally elected representatives — Assemblyman Vince Fong and state Sens. Shannon Grove and Melissa Hurtado — made the request in the context of their frustration with big-city, coastal lawmakers they said misunderstand how things work in not only the water world but in-state energy production as well.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California drought: Before and after satellite images show devastating impacts

Sometimes, it takes zooming out to a bird’s eye view to fully understand the devastating impacts of drought in California. Images captured from space by government and private satellites offer a sobering look at how the current drought — in year three — is affecting the state’s land and natural resources. The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows about 97% of California in moderate or worse drought, with much of the Central Valley and southern portions of the state in the worst conditions.

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Aquafornia news Foothills Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Feds double water supply for Valley farms, cities

More water will flow into farms and cities on the Valley’s east side after a decision by the federal government to increase the supply streaming down canals. On July 20, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced it will increase the water supply delivered to contractors along the eastern side of the Valley to 30%, doubling the original allocation of 15% announced in February. The amount of Class 1 water, for contractors with first rights for water deliveries, was confirmed by Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, in a July 22 update on its website.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: CA water agency blasted over lags in fixing unsafe drinking water

California’s state auditor blasted the agency responsible for helping poor communities fix their tainted water systems Tuesday, saying the it has tied up the process in red tape and forced nearly 1 million residents to wait months or years for help. Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden said the State Water Resources Control Board takes an average of 33 months to approve grants and loans requested by these communities to clean up water systems contaminated by excess amounts of nitrate, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. … Nitrate, the result of farm fertilizer seeping into the water supply, can cause numerous health issues for infants. Excessive levels of arsenic can cause problems with skin and circulatory systems, and elevate the risk of cancer.

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Aquafornia news Successful Farming

Report: Nut farmers expanded as drought deepened in California

As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78%, according to new research by Food & Water Watch. In a brief but critical report issued last week, the climate and consumer advocacy group found that California’s nut farms have grown steadily over the past 12 years, even as the state’s water crisis has deepened. Between 2017 and 2021 alone, almond and pistachio crops expanded so quickly that they required an additional 523 billion gallons of irrigation water.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Latest blow in Boswell-Vidovich water war could bring state control over region’s groundwater

The latest blow in an ongoing water war between two Kings County agricultural titans may put control of the entire region’s groundwater into state hands. The J.G. Boswell Farming Company and Sandridge Partners, controlled by John Vidovich, have been scuffling over water in court, on ditch banks and even in the air with accusations on both sides of various types of water skulduggery. On July 22, the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, controlled by Vidovich, voted to approve the region’s groundwater plan subject to an addendum that state representatives warned — during the meeting – could nullify the plan and lead to state control over groundwater.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: San Luis Reservoir algal bloom at warning level: public urged to avoid water contact

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is urging the public to avoid contact with water at San Luis Reservoir in Merced County until further notice due to blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Boating is allowed, but swimming and other water-contact recreation and sporting activities are not considered safe due to potential adverse health effects. For more information on warning level advisories, go to Harmful Algal Bloom website under Advisory Signs.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: South valley groundwater managers to use $10 million to protect community water and look for ways to retire up to 100,000 acres of farmland

Three San Joaquin Valley water agencies are gearing up to spend $10 million each in grant funding from the state Department of Conservation to retire or repurpose farmland. Valley agencies that have received grants so far include the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and Madera County. … Estimates are that 100,000 acres of farmland will need to be taken out of production if the subbasin is to comply with state law and reach groundwater sustainability, said Reyn Akiona, watershed coordinator for the Tule subbasin.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

SJV water districts get $800,000 in federal grants to save water

Two agencies in the San Joaquin Valley are closer to funding water conservation projects thanks to an $800,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation.  The money comes from the Bureau’s Agricultural Water and Conservation Efficiency grants.  About $362,000 will go to the Corcoran Irrigation District in Kings County and $430,000 will go to the Lost Hills Water District in Kern County.  The money will partially fund projects aimed at water savings and streamlining water transportation and storage. The rest of the funding will come from local contributions.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Drought is decimating my farm. How California should help us

As I drive across my family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, it feels as if I’m traveling on a chessboard. I cross one square with crops and then another without crops — our fields that must lay fallow. Our farm’s crops have been decimated by the drought. Last year, reduced water deliveries in the state led to 395,000 acres of cropland being idled, according to UC Merced researchers, and about 8,750 agricultural workers lost their jobs. … Without enough water, farmers in California can’t survive. The state’s aging water supply infrastructure has not kept up with the growth of the state. 
-Written by Joe L. Del Bosque, CEO and president of the family-owned Del Bosque Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news Merced Sun-Star

Residents of Merced County CA town hit with water shortage

Residents in the Merced County town of Ballico are advised not to drink the water after a mechanical failure at the well which supplies the community. According to Tricia Wathen, section chief of the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water Central California, the board was notified Saturday that a Ballico Community Services District well failed on Friday afternoon. Wathen said the problem is believed to be mechanical, and is expected to be repaired once parts are available. … The community worked with Merced County Office of Emergency Services and a local school to connect water to the system from the school’s irrigation well.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: A bad bill undermines cooperation on groundwater

The ink is barely dry on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and here comes more legislation to redo what has been the most significant change in California water law in over 100 years. The California Department of Water Resources has not finished evaluating Groundwater Sustainability Plans submitted by local agencies under SGMA, which established a cooperative framework to protect California’s groundwater resources. But already legislation—Assembly Bill 2201 by Steve Bennett, D-Ventura—seeks to change SGMA in ways that would bring unnecessary confusion and disruption into the process. 
-Written by Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau; and Jack Gualco, president of The Gualco Group Inc.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Exeter ends nitrate drinking water warning

Exeter officially put an end to their drinking water warning after swapping well 6’s production that included high nitrate levels with well 9 that was recently rehabilitated. The drinking water warning due to high levels of nitrates from well 6 in Exeter has been lifted. Women who are pregnant and infants could safely drink the city’s water as of July 14, ending the two month warning period. The warning was lifted after the city’s alternative well – well 9 – became fully operational. It had been undergoing rehabilitation work to prepare for high demand in the summer months. While well 9 was offline, all other wells had to remain online in order to meet peak hour water pressure demands. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Land transitions and dust in the San Joaquin Valley

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater users to bring their basins into balance over the next two decades. In the San Joaquin Valley, this will mean taking more than 500,000 acres of agricultural land out of intensive irrigated production. Among other issues, this could potentially lead to air quality impacts if the lands become new sources of dust, especially windblown dust, which can have numerous negative short- and long-term health and environmental impacts. In addition, the changing climate may exacerbate risks as warmer temperatures can dry out soils and increase dust emissions.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Going, going….water at some of Bakersfield’s most popular parks is almost gone

The lake at the Park at River Walk is fast disappearing, as are the Truxtun Lakes and some other city-owned water features. Blame the drought. The City of Bakersfield Water Resources Department has cut off flows to city-owned recreation and water recharge facilities to hold on to what little surface water it’s receiving from the dwindling Kern River for drinking water, according to Daniel Maldonado, a water planner with the department. … Local resident Calletano Guiterrez understood the city has to contend with the drought but hoped at least some water could be set aside for what he said he and his family have come to love about Bakersfield.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Exploring the potential for water-limited agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

The rollout of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is altering the state’s agricultural landscape. As groundwater sustainability measures are implemented and water scarcity increases, at least half a million acres are projected to come out of irrigated production in the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland. Rather than widespread land idling—which comes with unintended consequences such as dust, weeds, pests, and soil degradation—a switch from summer irrigated crops to winter crops produced with limited water (including winter cereals and forage crops, among others) might keep some of this land in production.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Agencies looking to “Plan B” as more San Joaquin Valley towns on brink of going dry and emergency water suppliers are tapped out

Groundwater levels are dropping and domestic wells throughout the San Joaquin Valley are going dry as California’s third year of drought grinds on. That includes entire towns, such as East Orosi and Tooleville in Tulare County, which both went dry last week. It’s bad. But it may get worse. Area water suppliers are “locking down” and may not have enough to share, equipment is in short supply and so are people to get the water to those in need.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Deep wells under Stanislaus could store climate-harming gas

A company seeks to drill two very deep wells in Stanislaus County to capture some of the carbon dioxide involved in climate change. Aemetis Inc. would sink the wells at its ethanol plant in Keyes and another coming soon to Riverbank. They would be perhaps 8,000 feet deep, far below groundwater sources, and would store close to 40 million tons of compressed gas over 20 years. The $250 million project would put the county at the forefront of the effort to sequester CO2 that otherwise would trap heat in the atmosphere. Experts say climate change is already disrupting agriculture, raising sea levels and making storms and wildfires more extreme.

Aquafornia news Journal of Environmental Engineering

New research: Treatment of selenium-laden agricultural drainage water using a full-scale bioreactor

Soils in the San Joaquin Valley of California have been a source of selenium (Se) release through dissolution into agricultural drainage, requiring treatment before discharge to the environment. A full-scale primarily anaerobic, granular activated-carbon (GAC) bioreactor with an empty bed contact time ranging from 3.4 to 5.0 h was fed 757  L/min757  L/min of second-pass agricultural drainage water (ADW) at the San Luis Demonstration Treatment Plant (SLDTP) in Firebaugh, California, for 1,062 days. This study summarized startup of an actual water treatment plant with a process scheme that had never been designed or operated at this scale.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Second Tulare County town goes dry as water tables plummet in drought

The town of Tooleville in Tulare County is once again without water. The town, which has struggled for years with dropping groundwater levels and contamination issues, saw its wells dry up over the weekend.  On July 15, residents called nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability reporting very low water pressure and some with no water at all, said Elvia Olea, policy advocate for Leadership Counsel.  This is the second town in Tulare County to lose water this summer. East Orosi, about 30 miles north of Tooleville, was without water for 24 hours when one of its two wells went down July 12, according to news reports. A pump was installed and restored water to East Orosi.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Nutria numbers are declining with California killing program

California may be winning its five-year, $13 million battle with nutria — the 20-pound, orange-toothed swamp rodents that biologists once feared would play hell with wetlands, flood-control levees and the state’s water-delivery system. … [Valerie Cook, who runs the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s nutria eradication program] said her team is seeing nutria numbers declining, and they’ve managed to keep them out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California’s most important waterway. Scientists who deal with invasive pests were first alarmed when nutria — a beagle-sized rodent native to the wetlands of South America — were spotted in a private duck-hunting marsh in the spring of 2017 near the farming community of Gustine in Merced County.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: Valley residents key concern is having safe drinking water

Growing up in Dinuba, my family and I worried about whether the water coming out of our tap was safe to drink. We knew that our groundwater was likely contaminated by nitrates and other toxic chemicals from agriculture. Like many other immigrant families, we would fill up three 5-gallon containers of water at a vending machine station on a weekly basis. To this day, we still don’t trust that the water in our home is safe to drink.
-Written by Emmanuel Agraz Torres, an ambassador with California Environmental Voters Education Fund and a student at California State University, Fresno.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s idle cropland may double as water crisis deepens

California’s historic drought may leave the state with the largest amount of empty farmland in recent memory as farmers face unprecedented cuts to crucial water supplies. The size of fields intended for almonds, rice, wine grapes and other crops left unworked could be around 800,000 acres, double the size of last year and the most in at least several decades, said Josue Medellin-Azuara, an associate professor at University of California Merced.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: One year later, DWR has provided nearly half a billion in drought relief to communities

A year after receiving funding from the Budget Act of 2021, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has successfully awarded more than $440 million to date in drought relief assistance to small and urban communities to address water supply challenges and help build local resilience. The Budget Act of 2021 allocated $500 million in total drought-relief funds to DWR following extreme dry conditions and Governor Newsom’s statewide drought emergency declaration.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Vulnerable domestic wells will be focus of $10 million farmland retirement grant in Madera County

Three San Joaquin Valley water agencies are gearing up to spend $10 million each in grant funding from the state Department of Conservation to retire or repurpose farmland. Valley agencies that received grants so far include the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainbility Agency (GSA) and Madera County. SJV Water will look at how each agency plans to use its $10 million in separate articles.

Aquafornia news FairPlanet

Tapping solar canals

In California, climate change is already a reality. Annual devastating wildfires, years long droughts and over-pumped groundwater systems are symptoms of the onset of a global environmental catastrophe. Researchers worldwide are desperately looking for ways to avert the worst case scenario and, should it already be too late, deal with the new environmental challenges in the most effective way possible. The Solar Canal Project, a kilometer-long network of irrigation canals in California which will be used to generate renewable energy, is emerging as one promising solution to these challenges.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

On a brutal summer day, one California town ran out of water. Then the fire came

There is a state mandate to consolidate [small] water systems with larger nearby communities by 2024. But that wasn’t soon enough for East Orosi, an unincorporated Tulare County hamlet southeast of Fresno. The water went off Tuesday afternoon. A temporary fix allowed the water to run sporadically on Wednesday. By then, a family had lost their home to a fire they had no water to fight. Children had spent a day scrambling to keep pets and livestock from dying. And in this community that already depends on bottled water for drinking, everyone knew the taps could soon go dry again. 

Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Calif. farmer says worsening drought could have big impacts on consumers

As much of the Western United States suffers from drought and cities turn to water restrictions to help conserve water, farmers in California are becoming increasingly worried about how it will impact consumers around the country. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen’s farmers in California’s Central Valley are preparing to harvest almonds in an area that produces about 80 percent of the state’s supply. … Jacobsen is a fourth-generation farmer on both sides of his family, meaning he and his ancestors have seen many good and bad years for harvesting.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Feds bump up supplies for Friant water users

Months after crying foul over a diversion of water resources, it appears that water agencies reliant on Friant Dam will see a boost in water supplies, Federal water officials announced on Friday. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation raised allocation to Class 1 contractors within the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project from 15 to 20 percent. Class 2 Friant contractors have not received an allocation for two straight years. The trend, Federal officials announced, will continue for the time being.

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

FWA announces allocation increase to 20 percent

Ask and ye shall receive — at least partially. And the Friant Water Authority is hopeful there’s more to come. FWA announced on Friday the Bureau of Reclamation has increased its 2022 water allocation for Friant Division Class 1 contractors from 15 to 20 percent. FWA added as in the past two years, Friant Division Class 2 contractors continued to received 0 percent, “which continues to reflect the hydrology for the 2022 water year is very dry.”

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

East Valley farmers and cities may get more surface water this summer

Farmers and cities on the east side of the Valley may get more water than they originally thought.  Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, said in a recent memo on its website it is confident its contractors will not only get the 15% allocation of surface water deliveries announced in February but that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will likely increase the amount to 20%, possibly as early as this week. … Better snow and rainfall in the Sacramento area late in the spring has allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to budget more water to be delivered to the San Joaquin Exchange Contractors …

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Farmers who helped sink the Friant-Kern Canal reject a fee to pay off their share of the fix

Farmers in southern Tulare County on June 30 soundly rejected a proposed land fee that would have helped pay a lump sum settlement of  $125 million toward fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, which has sunk because of excessive groundwater pumping. The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency agreed in 2020 to pay a portion of the cost to repair the canal to Friant Water Authority. … The settlement agreement between Eastern Tule and Friant laid out two payment options. The GSA would either pay a lump sum of $125 million by the end of 2022, or $200 million over the next decade through pumping fees charged to its farmers.

Aquafornia news Fresh Plaza

California pistachio growers face more water challenges

The next six weeks, California pistachios will be on close watch around how much–if any, the current drought in the state is affecting its growth or “nut fill.” … So while some growers are located in areas with good groundwater and/or are receiving some supply of surface water, others have zero surface water and also limited sources of groundwater. … At the same time, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is starting to be implemented. This legislation, which passed in 2014, requires that all groundwater basins in California be sustainable and agencies were formed to ensure compliance with the act.

Related articles: 

Tour Nick Gray

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

Travel 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.

Click here to register!

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.


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 California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


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).


Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

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.

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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.