The State Water Project (SWP) is responsible for bringing
drinking water to 25 million people and provides irrigation for
750,000 acres of farmland. Without it California would never have
become the economic powerhouse it is today.
The nation’s largest state-built water and power development and
conveyance system, the SWP diverts water from the Feather River
to the Central Valley, South Bay Area and Southern California.
Its key feature is the 444-mile long California Aqueduct that can
be viewed from Interstate 5.
The SWP has required the construction of 21 dams and more than
700 miles canals, pipelines and tunnels. To reach Southern
California, the water must be pumped 2,000 feet over the
Tehachapi Mountains; it’s the highest water lift in the world.
Today, about 30 percent of SWP water is used for irrigation,
mostly in the San Joaquin Valley, and about 70 percent is used
for residential, municipal and industrial use, mainly in Southern
California but also in the Bay Area. The SWP was built and is
operated by the California Department of Water Resources.
California needs more water and renewable energy, and Solar
AquaGrid CEO Jordan Harris is trying to help. … A big
idea is starting with a small stretch of canals in
the Turlock Irrigation District, located just south of
Modesto. This fall, groundbreaking will begin on a pilot
project to build solar panel canopies over existing canals.
… A study from UC Merced concluded that shading all
of the roughly 4,000 miles of California canals with solar
panels could save 63 billion gallons of water every year by
reducing evaporation, while potentially creating about one
sixth of the state’s current power capacity.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta lies at the confluence of two
of the state’s largest rivers. Forty percent of California’s
runoff flows into the Delta, which—together with the San
Francisco Bay—forms one of the West Coast’s largest estuaries.
The Delta watershed supplies water to roughly 30 million
residents and more than 6 million acres of farmland. Water
exported from the Delta goes to the Bay Area, the southern San
Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, and Southern California
Mark your calendars now for our upcoming fall 2022
tours exploring California’s two largest rivers – the
Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers! On our
California Tour, Oct. 12-14, participants
can learn about key reservoirs and infrastructure that
transports vital water resources statewide.
Our San Joaquin River Restoration Tour
Nov. 2-3 returns this year to tell the
story of bringing back a river’s chinook salmon while
balancing water supply needs. Registration is
The Delta is crucial because, if it ever failed as a hub, the
resulting water crisis in California would increase existing
tensions with the Colorado’s other parched dependents. … The
Delta’s problems are as dire, but they receive far less public
attention. The main threat to the Delta is saltwater
intrusion. If an earthquake caused a major levee failure, the
sunken islands would flood, drawing salt water from the Pacific
into waterways that are now kept fresh by the pressure of
inflows from the Sacramento.
Central California lawmakers, growers and advocates are calling
on the state to invest in canal repairs that they say will help
improve water security. The call for funding comes as the state
experiences the third year of drought. SB 559, known as
the State Water Resiliency Act, aims to fix canals that deliver
water across Central California fully. Currently, $200 million
has been allocated in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. But the
bill’s author, State Senator Melissa Hurtado of Sanger, said
that funding would only cover limited repairs.
Ventura has struck a 20-year deal with a Riverside County water
wholesaler that would save the city millions of dollars in
costs to maintain its rights to imported state water. Under the
agreement approved last month, the city would lease its share
of imported water to the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency in
Beaumont, an arrangement that would reap $1.1 million this
year and cover nearly half of the $2.27 million it will owe to
keep its state water entitlement. San Gorgonio would
increase its share of the costs starting next year.
At a point in the year when California’s water storage should
be at its highest, the state’s two largest reservoirs have
already dropped to critically low levels — a sobering outlook
for the hotter and drier months ahead. Shasta Lake, which rises
more than 1,000 feet above sea level when filled to the brim,
is at less than half of where it usually should be in early May
— the driest it has been at this time of year since
record-keeping first began in 1976. Lake Oroville, the largest
reservoir in the State Water Project, a roughly 700-mile
lifeline that pumps and ferries water all the way to Southern
California, is currently at 55% of total capacity.
With water scarcity increasing around the globe, arid regions
are striving to develop more flexible and diversified water
supplies. For example, California’s 2020 Water Resilience
Portfolio Initiative recommends improving and expanding the
state’s conveyance and storage infrastructure as well as
developing groundwater banking and other means of more flexibly
sharing water. The success of such initiatives depends in large
part upon the ability of water providers to collaboratively
finance and build new infrastructure.
With little hope of reprieve ahead of the warming summer
months, demand for water in parts of drought-stricken
California is outpacing supply. The Metropolitan Water District
of Southern California declared a water shortage emergency last
week for areas that rely on the State Water Project…. The
move is a marked shift in a drought disaster that’s only
expected to deepen with warmer and drier days ahead. Now in the
third year of the drought, supplies across the region are
becoming increasingly strained. Experts say more restrictions
across the state are likely as the effects of climate crisis
unfold faster than expected.
Some ideas are so satisfying that you wonder how they haven’t
been done before. Solar canals, which will get their first U.S.
pilot later this year in California, fit that mold. Western
states are crisscrossed by thousands of miles of irrigation
canals, some as wide as 150 feet, others just 10 feet across.
By covering those channels with solar panels, researchers say,
we could produce renewable energy without taking up precious
land. At the same time, the added shade could prevent billions
of gallons of water loss through evaporation.
Unprecedented water restrictions are in store for about 6
million Southern Californians, a sign of deepening drought in
counties that depend on water piped from the state’s parched
reservoirs. The Metropolitan Water District’s board voted
unanimously today to require six major water providers and the
dozens of cities and local districts they supply to impose one
of two options: limit residents to outdoor watering once a week
or reduce total water use below a certain target.
Sea level rise is one of the many threats we face as Earth’s
climate changes. … The worry there is obvious for
coastal communities in California. But the sea-level rise is
something that could affect all Californians because of where
that rising seawater would end up: the Central Delta.
… The Delta’s complex network of waterways is home to a
diverse ecosystem. It also serves 750,000 acres of farmland
with fresh water. Drinking water is also sent through the Delta
to the State Water Project system in Southern California.
As part of a broader research effort to conserve California’s
scarce water resources, a $20-million pilot project in the
state will investigate the use of solar canals as a major
source of renewable energy. Known as Project Nexus, the
state-funded venture is expected to demonstrate how covering
canals with solar panels can reduce water delivery system costs
and generate enough electricity to meet ambitious clean power
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.
This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
A government agency that controls much of California’s water
supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the
numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another
drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most
of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project
will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low
number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more
rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather
forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. The National
Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and
windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.
Voluntary agreements in California
have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve
environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows
and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be
diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
Get a unique view of the San Joaquin Valley’s key dams and
reservoirs that store and transport water on our March Central
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.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley,
farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their
livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This has
caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes
dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that can
never be restored.
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a
record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage
to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help
store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is
used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning
for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they
Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River
exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry
absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding
from extreme weather events like El Niño.
With a holding capacity of more than 260 billion gallons, Diamond
Valley Lake is
Southern California’s largest reservoir. It sits about 90
miles southeast of Los Angeles and just west of Hemet in
Riverside County where it was built in 2000. The offstream
reservoir was created by three large dams that connect the surrounding
hills, costing around $1.9 billion and doubling the region’s
water storage capacity.
This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past,
present and future of flood management in California’s Central
Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced
the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand.
Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from
California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood
Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they
discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood
protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic
flood management plan for the Central Valley.
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.
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.
Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is
today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the
fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically
important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system,
there have been some critical events that had a profound impact
on California’s water history. These turning points not only
forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives
of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a
historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped
the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with
background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.
A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36
inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and
its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and
Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin.
Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the
Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and
wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
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.
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.
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.
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
The State Water Project is an aquatic lifeline for California because of its vital role in bringing water to cities and farms. Without it, California would never have developed into the economic powerhouse it is.
The State Water Project diverts water from the Feather River to the Central Valley, South Bay Area and Southern California. Its key feature is the 444-mile long California Aqueduct that can be viewed from Interstate 5.
Oroville Dam is the centerpiece of
the State Water
Project (SWP) and its largest water storage facility.
Located about 70 miles north of Sacramento at the confluence of
the three forks of the Feather River, Oroville Dam is an
earthfill dam (consisting of an impervious core surrounded by
sands, gravels and rockfill materials) that creates a
reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
The Monterey Amendment, a 1994 pact between Department of Water
Resources and State Water Project contractors, helped ease
environmental stresses on the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.
As part of large-scale restructuring of water supply contracts,
the Monterey Amendment allowed for storage of excess flows during
wet years in groundwater banks and surface storage reservoir.
This stored water could then be used later during dry periods or
to help the Delta.
Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (1905-1996) was California’s governor from
1959-1967, exemplified the best in public service and left a
wide-ranging legacy that featured first and foremost the State
Water Project (SWP) and California Aqueduct but also included the
Fair Housing Act, the Fair Employment Act, the Master Plan for
Higher Education and highway expansion.
One of two State Water Project aqueducts serving Southern
California, the East Branch Aqueduct stores water in Silverwood
Lake and Lake Perris.
After being pumped over the Tehachapi Mountains from the
Edmonston Pumping Plant, water for the East Branch Aqueduct
passes through Palmdale and Lancaster [see also West Branch Aqueduct]. The
water is then stored for distribution to Inland Empire cities
such as San Bernardino and Riverside.
The Delta Pumping Plant Fish Protection Agreement stems from an
early effort to balance the needs of fish protection and State Water Project
operations. Negotiated in the mid-1980s, the agreement
foreshadowed future battles over fish protection and pumping.
[See also Sacramento-San Joaquin
The C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant (formerly known as the Tracy
Pumping Plant) sits at the head of the 117-mile long Delta-Mendota Canal.
Completed in 1951, the canal begins near Tracy, Calif. and
follows the Coast Range south, providing irrigation water to the
west side of the San
Joaquin Valley along its route and terminating at Mendota
The world’s largest water lift, the Edmonston Pumping Plant is a
State Water Project
facility. The pumping plant plays a vital role in Southern
California’s economy by supplying the semi-arid region with badly
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 issue of Western Water looks at the energy
requirements associated with water use and the means by which
state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge
and improve the management of both resources.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
changed nature of the California Water Plan, some aspects of the
2009 update (including the recommendation for a water finance
plan) and the reaction by certain stakeholders.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the area
of origin laws, what they mean to those who claim their
protections and the possible implications of the Tehama Colusa
Canal Authority’s lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation.
This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought
– its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector
and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should