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
Modesto is stepping up its enforcement of its drought
restrictions by sending water cops out in the early morning to
check for homeowners, businesses and others watering their
lawns and other landscaping when they shouldn’t or wasting
water because of malfunctioning sprinklers.
People don’t easily forget the moment the water dies. … In
this corner of the scorched Tulare Lake Basin, where lives and
livelihoods depend on water that comes from the ground, a human
crisis is accelerating amid California’s unrelenting drought.
Country Club residents are one step closer to shedding a
high-risk flood zone designation, after state officials agreed
this week to contribute $22 million toward the construction of
a gate near the mouth of Smith Canal.
The San Joaquin Valley’s tainted air might be getting an extra
dose of soot and ozone-forming gases this spring as growers
wrestle with the woody waste from dead citrus orchards. …
It’s more drought expense and woe in this broad farm belt where
thousands of growers for the second straight year have lost
river irrigation water for an area six times the footprint of
The plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calls for
improving 23 miles of levees, from Mosher Slough in the north
to French Camp Slough in the south. This is intended to protect
much of Stockton from catastrophic floods worsened by climate
“Less watering — less growth,” Public Utilities Director Thomas
Esqueda says. The result could be a blow to City Hall’s efforts
to meet state guidelines for solid-waste recycling and landfill
The farm is taking part in a research project using worms to
consume nitrogen in manure-tainted water that irrigates its
feed crops. The goal, in part, is to reduce the risk of
pollution. But the process also has a byproduct – an especially
rich fertilizer that can be sold to home gardeners and other
Chalk it up as yet another consequence of the drought. The
Stockton East Water District, which sells drinking water to
Stockton, experienced a rare water-quality violation at its
treatment plant east of town.
From their homes along Horseshoe Road east of Oakdale,
residents can’t help but notice the prominent mast of a
well-drilling rig atop the hill to the west. … Like so many
other wells in the area, it will pump water from deep in the
ground to feed orchards.
In the wake of zero water allocations again this year, Ronald
D. Jacobsma has stepped down as general manager of the Friant
Water Authority, representing 13 water districts on the San
Joaquin Valley’s east side. Jacobsma’s separation from the
authority follows the departure of eight water districts over
differences with the board of directors.
Farmers enjoying cheap water prices will pay more money for
less water this year, the Oakdale Irrigation District board
decided Tuesday. For the first time in 105 years, OID will
restrict water amounts, and as they did last year, farmers will
pay a $6.10-per-acre drought surcharge.
The 32-year-old farmer in the barber’s chair said his well
wouldn’t make it to summer. … It was late afternoon at the
tail end of what should have been the rainy season in the
fourth year of the California drought.
Look closely at the first-ever order for mandatory water
cutbacks in California. Just beyond the nine paragraphs that
start with “where as,” you find something San Joaquin Valley
residents should notice about the 25% reduction in water use.
Welcome, central San Joaquin Valley residents, to new rules for
surviving Drought 2015. Local cities are hustling to figure out
how they’ll comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive
order listing 31 drought-fighting mandates.
Article after article in newspapers, magazines and online put
nut growers in a bad light related to the
drought. … I planted my almonds based on a contract
with the federal government to deliver surface water from
Fresno County Board of Supervisors declared a drought emergency
Tuesday so it can obtain state and federal government
reimbursement for local drought emergency costs. … The board
also supported water restrictions in five unincorporated areas
with about 400 customers.
Irrigation leaders were pleased to learn in a recent meeting
that groundwater levels in the Oakdale Irrigation District’s
wells have dropped less than 4 1/2 inches in the past year, on
average, despite record pumping. But those numbers were based
on data from only three-fourths of OID’s deep wells, a Modesto
Bee analysis found.
Parts of the San Joaquin Valley are deflating like a tire with
a slow leak as growers pull more and more water from the
ground. The land subsidence is cracking irrigation canals,
buckling roads and permanently depleting storage space in the
vast aquifer that underlies California’s heartland.
A 300-yard stretch of the Tuolumne River near Hughson shows one
of the many impacts of the ongoing drought. The river is thick
with water hyacinth, a plant that chokes the flow to the point
where it looks like you could walk across it.
Supreme Court justices will unpack many different arguments
when they consider a surprisingly big California raisin case.
With briefs filed in recent days, parties ranging from the
state of Texas and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to a bunch of
independent raisin growers from California’s San Joaquin Valley
have challenged a decades-old system for managing raisin
Unusually warm temperatures the past few days have made the
four-year drought worse for crops, so Modesto Irrigation
District leaders said Tuesday they’re inclined to start
farmers’ water season April 12 instead of two weeks later.
[Abelardo De Leon] Garcia, 81, had lost his water well on
Easter Sunday last year. Nearly a year later, his water supply
has been resurrected, thanks to federal funding and a
Visalia-based nonprofit called Self-Help Enterprises.
Residents of this tiny western Fresno County town recently told
Fresno County supervisors that they don’t want to pay higher
bills for water service to their tiny community — even if it
means having their water shut off. If they don’t agree to pay
more, Cantua Creek residents will stop getting water as early
How does the south San Joaquin Valley get some water in
back-to-back drought years while the east side goes without?
And, by the way, vast tracts of farmland on the Valley’s west
side also will be shut out.
California officials, responding to concerns about groundwater
contamination, are closing 12 wells in the Central Valley used
to dispose of chemical-laden water from oil and gas production,
regulators announced Tuesday.
The Fresno City Council approved Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s
historic water project Thursday night, assuring a secure supply
of the liquid gold well into the 21st century. The 6-1 vote was
actually for a five-year rate plan.
Water officials in Kern County discovered that oil producers
have been dumping chemical-laden wastewater into hundreds of
unlined pits that are operating without proper permits.
… The pits — long, shallow troughs gouged out of dirt —
hold water that is produced from fracking and other oil
Top officials with the State Water Resources Control Board and
the state Department of Water Resources took different
approaches to emphasize that public health and safety will be
the key issue when the [Fresno] City Council on Thursday
evening debates the mayor’s plan.
If winter weather doesn’t return soon with a vengeance, Tulloch
Lake – a popular fishing and boating spot between Oakdale and
Jamestown, and one of California’s few reservoirs lined with
thousands of homes – might look more like a puddle by July.
The next train wreck in California’s drought is headed for the
San Joaquin Valley this week when federal leaders forecast how
much river water farmers can expect to irrigate nearly 3
million acres this summer.
Cemex, an international cement and gravel company, had
suspended mining at its Stillwell site and stopped pumping
water into a seepage ditch that recharges groundwater for an
adjacent area that includes four homes.
Fresno is turning its sewer farm into a drought-buster. City
Hall has started building the first phase of an advanced
treatment plant that will deliver millions of gallons of water
every day for non-drinking uses, such as irrigation of green
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.
Modesto Irrigation District leaders Tuesday morning could
revive last year’s drought-combating measures, which enjoyed
only marginal success, for the coming season. … The MID board
Tuesday morning also will continue discussing a historical
inequity in rates that has electricity customers subsidizing
farmers’ water prices.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin has on tap a $1 million program to help
low-income Fresnans pay their water bills. Whether that is
enough to turn her proposed upgrade to Fresno’s water system
into reality figures to be City Hall’s hottest political
question this month.
Clean drinking water is something many Americans take for
granted, but in areas such as south Kern County access to safe
water is not guaranteed. A new program called Agua4All is
attempting to address that.
A little storm can come through and rain on Fresno records, but
I’m [Mark Grossi] driving at something else: This is winter in
capricious California. Wildfires, blizzards, killing frosts,
dry spells, howling wind, pleasant sunny days, drizzling storms
and fog happen in January.
Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are
turning their crop into energy instead of sweetener. A
cooperative of nine sugar beet farmers just opened a
demonstration biorefinery south of Fresno.
The Turlock Irrigation District could cap water deliveries at
about 40 percent of the customary amount even if the rest of
winter brings average rain and snow. The district staff on
Tuesday night provided an initial look at the supply for 2015,
which is looking to be a fourth straight year of drought.
In the chilly January fog, Bee photographer John Walker and I
last week stood at a spot where the San Joaquin River died in
the 1960s — the Sand Slough Control Structure in Merced County.
We were researching the river restoration story that published
in Sunday’s Bee.
Stream gauges and monitoring wells are ready and waiting along
the San Joaquin River. Big money has been spent for the right
to let water flow through a private bypass. All that’s missing
now is water.
A state scientific review of what’s known about fracking in
California finds the controversial oil and gas production
technique is used in nearly half of all new wells, particularly
in four Kern county oil fields in the southern part of the San
About 20 percent of California’s oil and natural-gas production
uses hydraulic fracturing — with almost all of it happening in
one corner of the San Joaquin Valley — according to the most
authoritative survey yet released of fracking in the Golden
Hydraulic fracturing unlocked oil at about half of the new
wells launched in California over the last decade, and the
practice will likely expand in a chunk of the San Joaquin
Valley, according to a new study required by the 2013 law to
regulate the practice.
When I saw the headline “Westlands reaches secret deal” Monday
in The Bee, I knew it was about the toxic irrigation drainage
that caused a wildlife disaster in western Merced County more
than three decades ago.
A proposal to change water rates for farmers would have some
paying more money and some less, but would not bring more
revenue to the Modesto Irrigation District or affect the
massive subsidy borne by its electricity customers.
A staggering economic and environmental problem festering for
three decades in the southern San Joaquin Valley would be
addressed by a secret deal reached between the Obama
administration and farmers — one that is sounding alarms for
Bay Area lawmakers. … Details of the deal between
Westlands and the federal Bureau of Reclamation have not been
revealed to members of Congress, who would have to approve it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sees a connection
between cleaning up the air and water and helping the economy
grow, says Gina McCarthy, who leads the federal government’s
environmental guardian. … The EPA leader said federal and
state officials are working together to provide money for
drinking-water fixes in the Valley.
It’s hard for elected officials to step away when their terms
come to a close. All that unfinished business. But when that
unfinished business happens to include the all-encompassing,
life-sucking subject of water, it’s even more difficult to let
If I have sugar in my pantry and flour in my cupboard, does
that make me a baker? No. But The Bee continues to assert that
since the Oakdale Irrigation District pumps groundwater and
sells surface water that makes it guilty of pumping and selling
groundwater out of the county.
Recent storms have mostly cleared Stockton waterways that were
hijacked by hyacinth the past two months, but officials at a
standing-room-only town hall meeting Monday said it’s important
to stay focused on the future.
The dairy industry across the San Joaquin Valley is worried
about California’s new endangered species protection for the
tricolored blackbird, which nests in dairy silage fields here.
And dairy leaders are disappointed because they had been trying
to help save the bird for years.
When a man of 91 is downright cantankerous and has been on his
land longer than most everyone else has been alive, he wastes
no time speaking his mind. So after his new neighbor started
sinking a well to plant a water-sucking almond orchard in the
middle of the worst drought he’d ever seen, James Turner
Electricity customers of the Turlock Irrigation District will
get a rate increase averaging 2 percent as of Jan. 1, following
a 5-0 vote by its board Tuesday morning. … TID also has
proposed a far larger increase – more than double – in farm
Wildlife officials took unprecedented emergency action
Wednesday to protect the tricolored blackbird, a once-prolific
songbird that declined 78 percent in the San Joaquin Valley
over the past six years.
Still staggering under $24 billion in debt, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency will increase flood-insurance rates
up to 18 percent next year for those living in high-risk flood
zones, including the Smith Canal area of Stockton.
Two actions taken Tuesday – one by the Modesto Irrigation
District Board of Directors and one by the Stanislaus County
Board of Supervisors – show that our elected officials are not
only listening, they are responding.
An intriguing public debate over electricity customers
subsidizing farmers has focused on what the farmers get:
irrigation water at bargain basement prices. Somewhat lost in
the dialogue is how much more power customers are paying – not
just to benefit agriculture, but to keep afloat the Modesto
Irrigation District’s entire operation.
The San Joaquin Valley campaign for Temperance Flat Reservoir
may have moved forward on federal drawing boards, and it may
have gotten a shot of adrenaline when the $7.5 billion water
bond past this month. But the public money is not committed
Already missing out on state money to address the drought, San
Joaquin County officials will soon ask property owners if
they’re willing to disclose to the state what some feel are
sensitive details about their wells.
There are 810 dried wells at Tulare County homes, and water
tanks may be their best chance to get running water for the
winter. At the same time, county officials say the cost of all
this triage could be $12 million annually — a cost the state
would pick up.
They’re famous for asparagus and potatoes on this central Delta
island, where the Zuckerman family has farmed for four
generations. But here and there, mixed in with the spuds and
other crops, are vast fields of emerald-green grass that
stretch into the distance until they meet the sky.
For the first time since the drought began, state officials
this week revealed how much water communities across California
are using on a per-person, per-day basis — and as always there
are heroes and villains.
East San Joaquin Valley growers are suing state water
authorities over drought decisions, claiming east-side
communities and farms got no federal water after the state
illegally denied deliveries to a separate group of landowners
with senior water rights.
A month of water debate has delivered an unsurprising message
to Fresno City Hall — given their druthers, people prefer stuff
to be free. But the 150 people who gathered at Gaston Middle
School in southwest Fresno on Monday for the third of four
water forums got an equally unsurprising reply: Water is the
stuff of life, and it’s going to cost you.
Great horned owls hang out at the San Luis National Wildlife
Refuge. … But this year, predators may be the least of the
worries for these birds. Starvation, avian cholera and botulism
may be bigger killers than usual. It’s another dark twist from
California’s destructive drought.
To John Laird, Secretary of the California Natural Resources
Agency: The hyacinth situation in parts of the California Delta
has become a disaster. The navigable part of the Calaveras
River is completely filled in with the pest as are Buckley
Cove, downtown Stockton harbor, Whiskey Slough, much of the San
Joaquin River and many other areas — this is just a sampling.
With Stockton’s water hyacinth invasion seeming to only get
worse, San Joaquin County legislators on Friday asked state
officials to request a “sustained funding source” from the
federal government to fight back against the prolific weeds.
The signs appear about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, tacked
onto old farm wagons parked along quiet two-lane roads and
bustling Interstate 5. “Congress Created Dust Bowl.” “Stop the
Politicians’ Water Crisis.” “No Water No Jobs.”
San Joaquin County is missing out on millions of dollars in
state grants to fight the drought, in part because some private
landowners are reluctant to share confidential information
about their wells.
About 100 people listened at a public meeting in Fresno to
sometimes passionate statements from speakers who faulted
everything from the feasibility analysis to the notification
for the hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for
Temperance Flat Reservoir.
Join us on the Nov. 6-7 San Joaquin River Restoration Tour that
will explore the challenges associated with restoration of the
San Joaquin River, a program that is the result of a legal
settlement. See firsthand the progress being made and discuss
the current conflicts so you can better understand the
coordination taking place to implement one of the largest river
restoration projects in the nation. The two-day,
one-night tour starts and ends in Fresno.
Asian Citrus Psyllids, an invasive insect, have been found in
Manteca and Lodi, according to San Joaquin County Agricultural
Commissioner Tim Pelican. … The psyllids pose no threat to
humans, but they can carry the huanglongbing disease, also
known as citrus greening.
For the second year in a row, despite state officials’ efforts
to control water hyacinth with herbicides as early as March,
another bumper crop is now making its annual fall push into
Stockton and other portions of the Delta.
When Tracy city workers first ran the numbers suggesting that
residents saved 41 percent more water in August than they did
the previous year — one of the highest conservation rates in
the state — Steve Bayley was stunned.
In the Gallegos household and more than 500 others in Tulare
County, residents cannot flush a toilet, fill a drinking glass,
wash dishes or clothes, or even rinse their hands without
reaching for a bottle or bucket. Unlike the Okies who came here
fleeing the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the people now living on
this parched land are stuck.
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
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. 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.
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
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.
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
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
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
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
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
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.
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
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
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 history of the project, the guide
describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the
benefits the CVP brought to the state, and the CVP Improvement
This 2-day, 1-night tour will explore flood threat and flood management programs related to the South Delta and the lower San Joaquin River. Stops include Bear Creek, Paradise Cut, Jones Tract, Smith Canal and San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. Issues of project and non-project levees, floodplain restoration, sea level rise and response to flood emergencies will be discussed. The tour begins and ends in Stockton.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels the length of the San Joaquin
Valley, giving participants a clear understanding of the State
Water Project and Central Valley Project. Stops include the Kern
County Water Bank, the San Joaquin River,
Terminus Dam, Mendota Pool, Friant Dam, San Luis
National Wildlife Refuge and San Luis Reservoir.
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 and
competing issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity
and agricultural drainage, and water distribution.
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
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 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.
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, 95 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.
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.
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
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.
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