Topic: Wetlands



Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems in the world. They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of water, reduce flooding and erosion and recharge groundwater. They also serve as critical habitat for wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on California’s endangered species list.

As the state has grown into one of the world’s leading economies, Californians have developed and transformed the state’s marshes, swamps and tidal flats, losing as much as 90 percent of the original wetlands acreage—a greater percentage of loss than any other state in the nation.

While the conversion of wetlands has slowed, the loss in California is significant and it affects a range of factors from water quality to quality of life.

Wetlands still remain in every part of the state, with the greatest concentration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed, which includes the Central Valley. The Delta wetlands are especially important because they are part of the vast complex of waterways that provide two-thirds of California’s drinking water.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Level of the Great Salt Lake is higher than past years, but still low

Two years ago, the Great Salt Lake became an omen for the risks of climate change: The water level dropped to a record low, threatening the ecosystem, economy and even the air quality of the area around Salt Lake City, home to a majority of Utah’s population. Now, after two unusually wet winters and a series of conservation measures, the lake has gained about six feet. Despite that increase the lake is still below the minimum levels considered healthy. And environmentalists and policymakers are concerned that the increase might reduce the pressure to save the lake. “I worry about complacency,” said Bonnie Baxter, director of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster University. “We need to really be cautious about being optimistic.” Increased water levels in the lake are primarily the result of higher-than-normal snowfall, according to Hayden Mahan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Aquafornia news California Rice News

News release: Application deadline approaching for new waterbird habitat program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is taking applications for the Migratory Bird Resurgence Initiative (MBRI). California has $500,000 available. Please call or visit your local NRCS office to apply.  Due to the current compressed planting season, we have confirmed with NRCS that you can register your interest in the opportunity with just a phone call by May 24, but then you will still need to sign your application in person by May 31.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Opinion: Cowabunga – Irrigated farms, ranches good for critters

Taking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at its word to employ a “robust public engagement process”, a coalition of over a dozen national and state farm and water organizations have engaged the agency on its proposal to list the northwestern and southwestern pond turtles under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The litigious Center for Biological Diversity has been pushing for stronger protection for the pond turtles for over a decade. The proposed listing of the turtle could potentially impact producers and water managers in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. … For example, millions of acre-feet of stored water in the past decade have been directed away from farmland and flushed out to the sea to “protect” delta smelt in California and coho salmon on the Klamath River.
-Written by Dan Keppen is executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

The biggest water measures passed by Colorado lawmakers this year

Colorado lawmakers gave the thumbs-up to 10 water measures this year that will bring millions of dollars in new funding to help protect streams, bring oversight to construction activities in wetlands and rivers, make commercial rainwater harvesting easier and support efforts to restore the clarity of Grand Lake. Money for water conservation, planning and projects was a big winner, with some $50 million approved, including $20 million to purchase the Shoshone water rights on the Colorado River. Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, expressed gratitude for the legislature’s focus on water issues and for funding the Shoshone purchase.

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Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Bird flu may be driven by this overlooked factor

As federal officials grapple with how to contain the highly contagious strain of avian flu that has infected chickens, turkeys, and dairy cattle on farms across the U.S., a number of scientists are pointing to one factor that could be driving the spread of its virus and its spillover from wild birds to farm animals. Waterfowl—ducks, geese, and swans—are the primary host of the viruses, and large animal agriculture facilities are often found in close proximity to their remaining wetland habitats. For instance, California’s Central Valley and the East Coast’s Delmarva Peninsula are both critical wintering grounds for waterfowl, along major North American bird migration routes, and epicenters of U.S. poultry production. As a result, some scientists who track waterfowl question whether this geographic overlap—alongside the shrinkage of waterfowl habitats—creates more opportunities for the virus to spread between infected waterfowl and the animals in agricultural facilities.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Californians love our parks. We just don’t know they’re state parks

When Dos Rios Ranch opens to visitors next month in the San Joaquin Valley, California will have 280 state parks — making it one of the nation’s largest systems, as well as one of its most popular, with about 70 million visitors a year. Who knew? The short answer is: hardly anyone. Over the past 20 years I’ve asked several thousand Californians to name five state parks. Fewer than 5% can do so. And most of these baffled respondents are outdoorsy folks — the kind of people I meet on the trail or at my talks about hiking. This lack of awareness is more than surprising right now. It’s dangerous. If Californians can’t name a handful of state parks, they won’t recognize the threat when Sacramento defers investment in the system or — as is inevitably happening again — attempts to cut funding.
-Written by John McKinney, author of “Hike California’s State Parks” and two dozen other hiking-themed books, has visited all 280 state parks.​

Aquafornia news The Pew Charitable Trusts

Blog: Coastal wetlands offer needed haven for imperiled birds

Imagine a world devoid of bird calls, with mountains, rivers, beaches, and forests missing a soundtrack that has sustained for 150 million years. Although such a scenario, reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s influential book “Silent Spring,” remains highly unlikely, scientists are sounding alarms about the dramatic decline in bird populations worldwide. A 2019 study published in Science documented those declines, including the loss of nearly 3 billion birds in North America alone since 1970. Habitat loss and degradation, driven by coastal disturbance, pollution, and rising sea levels, are the primary culprits. And along the world’s shorelines, coastal wetlands play an outsize role in sustaining bird populations. By providing feeding, breeding, and nesting areas for a wide variety of avian species, these ecosystems—in particular salt marshes and mangroves—are sanctuaries for migratory birds facing significant challenges. 

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Bay Area tech giant helping restore a major Calif. floodplain

Nearly 1,600 acres of land used as rice fields north of Sacramento could one day become public land, after a huge restoration project funded partly by big tech. Apple is among the donors to the Dos Rios Norte project, an effort to restore a floodplain located where the Sacramento and Feather rivers meet that’s crucial to wildlife, the Sacramento Bee first reported. California conservation nonprofit River Partners is leading the efforts, with the goal of repairing the area habitat for the state’s native Chinook salmon population, threatened bird species and other wildlife species. The project aims to save around 7,000 acre-feet of water each year, among other environmental benefits. Apple would not disclose how much the company contributed to this project, but confirmed to SFGATE it has pledged more than $8 million since 2023 to California watershed projects, including this one.

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Aquafornia news KPBS Public Media

At the edge of Imperial County, the Quechan Tribe works to restore a parched river

… Along the eastern edge of Imperial County, the landscape is slowly changing. Acres of invasive saltcedar plants and other weeds are vanishing, replaced by expanses of thorny green trees dusted with bright yellow flowers. The shift is a result of the Quechan Tribe’s ongoing efforts to restore the banks of the parched Colorado River … where it winds through the Quechan Reservation between California and Arizona.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Tim Johnson and California rice

Tim’s story unfolds with his entry into the rice industry back in 1996, when he assumed the role of Marketing Projects Coordinator for the California Rice Promotion Board. Tasked with promoting rice both domestically and internationally, Tim quickly found himself immersed in the intricacies of the industry. Little did he know that this role would mark the beginning of a lifetime career in California rice production and agriculture. A pivotal moment in Tim’s career came with the formation of the California Rice Commission a few years later, where he was appointed as its first executive. This transition, as Tim fondly recalls, marked a significant milestone in his professional trajectory—a journey that began with humble beginnings, including his days working on a Frito-Lay truck right out of college.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

From tunnel muck to tidal marsh, BART extension could benefit the bay

The massive infrastructure project to extend BART through Downtown San José and into Santa Clara is inching closer to getting underway. … The restoration project plans to convert 15,000 acres of former Cargill salt ponds — sold to federal and state wildlife agencies in 2003 — back into marshes, which provide a slew of benefits to the region. … And while Bay restoration projects have often made good use of dirt from other construction and infrastructure projects previously, this is the first time the region has seen the use of what’s known as “tunnel muck” specifically to raise the bottoms of a former salt pond.

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Aquafornia news ABC 15 - Phoenix

Wetlands in Arizona? Tres Rios Wetlands is Phoenix’s hidden nature gem

Did you know Phoenix is home to wetlands? Located near 91st Avenue and Broadway, lies a haven of biodiversity and tranquility not usually found in the desert. The Tres Rios Wetlands spans 700 acres of water and features a unique ecosystem unlike anything in the Valley. From rare bird species to lush vegetation, this hidden gem showcases seven miles of hiking trails. … The recycled water goes through an extensive cleaning process and then makes its way to Tres Rios, providing an ecosystem for all kinds of fish like bass, catfish, and tilapia. There are also numerous water-loving plants you won’t see anywhere else in the state naturally.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Here’s how horizontal levees protect shoreline projects like tidal marshes in San Francisco Bay

If you live around the San Francisco Bay, you’re probably familiar with cement sea walls and sturdy levees. But, increasingly, a nature-based design is providing an alternative — one with significant benefits in the face of sea level rise. When we first met Jessie Olson, she was in the middle of a multiyear project, to create what’s known as a horizontal levee, alongside a newly opened tidal marsh in Menlo Park. Joined by volunteers and colleagues from Save the Bay, the team installed hundreds of plants that will help clean the bay waters as the tides surge in and out.

Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

As Great Salt Lake nears key level, Utah finds inspiration elsewhere to help lake’s recovery

The Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reached 4,195 feet elevation at times over the stormy weekend as it nears reaching that figure daily for the first time in five years. While that’s a key water level in the ongoing efforts to preserve the lake after it reached an all-time low in 2022, the state agency tasked with overseeing the lake’s future recently took a field trip to other parts of the Southwest as it soaks up ideas that could help improve future water inflows. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

A tech giant is helping restore these Sacramento Valley rice fields to a floodplain. Here’s why

A thousand years ago, native fish and birds rested in a fertile floodplain at the intersection of the Sacramento and Feather rivers and Butte creek along their migratory routes. Since the turn of the 20th century, the area has been engulfed in rice fields. But in the next decade, the bygone natural floodplain is coming back. That’s after California conservation nonprofit River Partners secured millions for restoration work on 750 acres from state wildlife agencies and Apple Inc., the multinational tech company. It’s all part of the state’s effort to conserve important wild lands for their myriad climate benefits and Apple’s support for clean energy and conservation projects to counterbalance pollution and water consumption from its operations.

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Aquafornia news The Pew Charitable Trusts

How 3 U.S. states incorporate coastal habitats into climate change planning

Coastal wetlands—including salt marshes, tidal forested wetlands, and seagrasses—can sequester more carbon per acre than inland forests, making them some of the world’s most effective natural carbon sinks. So, states [including California] are increasingly incorporating the protection and restoration of these “blue carbon” habitats into their broader initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet their climate change goals. Although states use different approaches to incorporating coastal wetlands into their climate planning, some common elements are high-level leadership and policy goals, quality data and established methodologies for understanding blue carbon trends, and partnerships for effective implementation.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Sacramento delta stewards eye climate change protection for levees, habitats

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta faces significant challenges affecting the health of its waterways and ecosystem, and stewards say state agencies must accelerate efforts to prepare for the impacts of climate change and a growing urban landscape.  Delta Stewardship Council staff presented the Delta Plan Five Year Review on Thursday, recommending numerous measures to preserve precious water and environmental habitats against future crises such as extreme drought, sea level rise and earthquakes. The council recommended that stewards work with state regulators to improve the delta’s ecosystems and reduce reliance on delta water, and with landowners to identify affordable uses of sinking land for sustainable farming. 

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Biden admin vows to restore 8M acres of wetlands

The Biden administration announced a goal Tuesday to protect and restore 8 million acres of wetlands over the next six years in an effort to counter development pressures and recently weakened federal regulations. The bold new target seeks to reverse the ongoing loss of U.S. wetlands, which help keep pollutants out of rivers and streams and act as a natural buffer against flooding. Over 60 percent of wetlands now lack protections under the Clean Water Act for the first time in decades after the Supreme Court curtailed the law’s scope last year. In addition to wetlands, the administration committed to “reconnect, restore and protect” 100,000 miles of rivers and streams nationwide by 2030, including by removing impediments such as dams and by restoring stream banks experiencing erosion.

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Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Protecting biodiversity means saving the bogs (and peatlands, swamps, marshes, fens…)

As it does every year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) will be evaluating plant and animal species to determine which ones deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. About half of the species chosen for analysis so far in 2024 have something in common: Their futures depend on the conservation of wetlands. A mere coincidence? Probably not. While wetlands cover just 6 percent of the earth’s land surface area, they provide habitat for a whopping 40 percent of plants and animals.  In all likelihood, we can expect this trend of wetland-dependent species coming under the protection of the Endangered Species Act to continue, predicts Amy McNamara, a freshwater ecosystems strategist for NRDC. But this, she says, “is something that we should work to avoid at all costs.” 

Aquafornia news SkyHi News

Opinion: Restoring protections to wetlands, waterways is vital to the livelihood of Grand County

In one of the biggest rollbacks of the Clean Water Act since its inception five decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court last year abolished protections for tens of thousands of acres of wetlands in Colorado. And unless the state legislature passes a measure to create a permitting plan and restore the protections that existed before the Supreme Court’s decision, Grand County’s waterways are at risk. In every area of the state, Colorado’s wetlands lacking a permanent surface flow – along with intermittent streams that run seasonally and ephemeral streams that only flow in response to rain or snow – are in jeopardy. In essence, the ruling means wetlands that were previously protected can now be filled, paved over and destroyed with impunity.
-Written by Kirk Klanke, Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California is finally getting a new state park this summer

After a decade in the works, California is getting a new state park this summer. Dos Rios Ranch, a 1,600-acre plot west of Modesto where the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers converge, has long been slated to become the next state park. On Monday, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced it would open June 12. … Department of Parks and Recreation Director Armando Quintero has characterized Dos Rios as a needed public investment in a “a park-poor region.” The site for Dos Rios was donated by the Chico conservation group River Partners, which spent $40 million restoring the area from its previous incarnation as a dairy farm to its more natural state as a floodplain, a transition that state leaders have touted as climate-resilient. In Monday’s announcement, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the Dos Rios restoration “a key asset to fighting the climate crisis.”

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Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

San Francisco Bay Area community members, lawmakers push for funding to restore tidal marsh to help with flooding

The San Francisco Bay could experience a foot of water in sea level rise by 2050 if high emissions continue, according to the State of California’s Sea-Level Rise Guidance Report. There is a push for major spending to control flooding in the Bay Area before that scenario plays out – and one of the proposed solutions is tidal marsh. Like many Pacific Islanders living around East Palo Alto, the shoreline is a spiritual place to Anthony Tongia and Violet Saena. … According to the USDA Forest Service, more than 80 percent of the San Francisco Bay’s original tidal wetlands have been altered or displaced. This has impacted habitats and species that live along the shoreline. It also partially led to recurring flooding in several areas along the Bay.

Aquafornia news Knee Deep Times

Harmful blooms spur more wastewater upgrades

Palo Alto’s bioreactor towers are aging out, like a lot of the clean water infrastructure constructed around the Bay Area in the 1950s-1970s. Recent wind gusts, swirling around the edges of February’s atmospheric river storms, have not been friendly to the towers either. On a March visit to the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant, which treats 18 million gallons of wastewater every day, I could see a big chunk missing from the wall of one rusty cauldron and tumbleweeds caught in the metalwork.  Elsewhere on the 25-acre site, the plant’s facilities are visibly undergoing a $193 million overhaul. The overhaul will help the plant meet increasing regulatory limits on the amount of nitrogen that dischargers can pipe into the shallows of San Francisco Bay.  

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Questions abound in case of contamination of Sacramento River tributary

A federal judge denied summary judgment to a California nonprofit that accuses a solid waste facility in Butte County of allowing contaminants to seep out of its facility and into a wetland preserve that leads to a Sacramento River tributary during a major rainstorm. Nonprofit California Open Lands maintains a wetland preserve in Butte County that sits near the Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility, operated by the Butte County Department of Public Works. 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: First-of-its-kind watershed study highlights how innovative tools help build climate resilience in the San Joaquin Valley

California’s changing climate brings new challenges each year for water managers as they navigate extreme shifts from drought to flood while working to ensure safe, reliable water supplies for California’s 39 million residents. Water managers address these challenges in their local watersheds, which are often at the forefront of the impacts of climate change.

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado lawmakers debate state-based wetlands protections

How Colorado protects wetlands depends on two perspectives: Is it a water quality issue or a land management issue? Even assuming it’s a little of both, either answer leads to different approaches, each to be overseen by a different agency. And either path offers implications for construction, permitting and management of habitats. This month, lawmakers looked at the dueling approaches contained in two measures seeking to implement a way for the state to manage “dredge and fill discharge” permits tied to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that redefined how a body of water can be protected under the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule.

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Opinion: Beavers are our partners in protecting and restoring California

If you’re like us, you’re inspired by the natural world and eager to see California’s beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes protected for future generations. You also might be surprised to hear that the health and survival of these places depends on one species more than most: beavers. Put simply, beavers are our partners in protecting and restoring California. Beavers are known as a “keystone species,” meaning they create, modify, and maintain critical ecosystems for insects, birds, mammals, fish, plants, and trees. 
-Written by Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman, Co-Directors of the Watershed Advocacy, Training, Education, & Research (WATER) Institute and the Bring Back the Beaver Campaign at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. 

Aquafornia news NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Blog: SWOT satellite helps gauge the depth of Death Valley’s temporary lake

California’s Death Valley, the driest place in North America, has hosted an ephemeral lake since late 2023. A NASA-led analysis recently calculated water depths in the temporary lake over several weeks in February and March 2024, demonstrating the capabilities of the U.S.-French Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, which launched in December 2022. The analysis found that water depths in the lake ranged from about 3 feet (1 meter) to less than 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) over the course of about 6 weeks. This period included a series of storms that swept across California, bringing record amounts of rainfall. 

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Aquafornia news ABC News

Streams that supply drinking water in danger following 2023 Supreme Court decision that stripped wetlands protections

A Supreme Court decision that stripped protections from America’s wetlands will have reverberating impacts on rivers that supply drinking water all over the U.S., according to a new report. The rivers of New Mexico are among the waterways that will be affected most by the May 2023 Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA, which rolled back decades of federal safeguards under the Clean Water Act for about half of the nation’s wetlands and up to four million miles of streams that supply drinking water for up to four million people, according to the report, titled “America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2024.” … [The report, issued by the advocacy group American Rivers, also cited the Trinity River in California and the Tijuana River in California and Mexico as among the ten most endangered rivers.]

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Mornings at the Duck Pond

Each morning is similar, but different. As we approach the pond on the wooden catwalk, you can hear the birds calling, eventually you start to smell the freshness of the ecosystem, the glitters and splashing ahead gives some indication of bird activity on the water. Sometimes an alligator lizard scoots past along the floorwork – occasionally even two. Steam rises from my coffee cup, to varying degrees, depending on how quickly we got out the door. And then there are my three kids, also ever changing. Each day, one to three are in-tow, usually chatting it up about geology, Egypt, space, or the day’s most pressing sports news. And so it goes on most mornings, ideally when the mist is still fresh or the winter fog lingering, the Rypel family ventures to the “the duck pond” aka Julie Partansky Pond in north Davis.

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

How bulldozing a closed Motel 6 could help improve Lake Tahoe’s water clarity

The Upper Truckee River Watershed is the largest contributor of freshwater to Lake Tahoe. … With fewer floodplains, more fine sediment and nutrients began flowing in, and the lake’s clarity declined from more than 130 feet in the 1960s to a low point of 60 feet in 2017. … Once a healthy wetland, the property is paved with asphalt, housing a defunct Motel 6 and a long-shuttered restaurant. During the next several years, the buildings will be razed, the asphalt removed and the wetland restored, connecting 560 acres of the Upper Truckee Marsh on the shores of Lake Tahoe to 206-acre Johnson Meadow across Highway 50 to the south. It’s all part of a bigger effort to restore the lake’s clarity by reclaiming habitat around the 9 miles of the river closest to Lake Tahoe, an area that has seen heavy development.

Aquafornia news Hakai Magazine

Making a marsh out of a mud pile

The water in California’s San Francisco Bay could rise more than two meters by the year 2100. For the region’s tidal marshes and their inhabitants, such as the endangered Ridgway’s rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse, it’s a potential death sentence. Given enough time, space, and sediment, tidal marshes can build layers of mud and decaying vegetation to keep up with rising seas. Unfortunately, upstream dams and a long history of dredging bays and dumping the sediment offshore are starving many tidal marshes around the world of the sediment they need to grow. To keep its marshes above water, San Francisco Bay needs more than 545 million tonnes of dirt by 2100.

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Aquafornia news The Lever

A water wrongdoer’s revenge

After being sanctioned by federal regulators for plowing up protected wetlands on his California farm, a U.S. lawmaker is now spearheading an effort to roll back federal water protections — including the very same provisions that he once paid penalties for violating. If the scheme is successful, environmental groups say industrial polluters could more freely contaminate wetlands, rivers, and other waters, harming both the nation’s water resources and the communities depending on them. It could also benefit the lawmaker spearheading the attack, since he still owns the farm where he was found to be destroying wetlands.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

Opinion: Coastal wetlands can’t keep pace with sea-level rise, and infrastructure is leaving them nowhere to go

Wetlands have flourished along the world’s coastlines for thousands of years, playing valuable roles in the lives of people and wildlife. They protect the land from storm surge, stop seawater from contaminating drinking water supplies, and create habitat for birds, fish and threatened species. Much of that may be gone in a matter of decades. As the planet warms, sea level rises at an ever-faster rate. Wetlands have generally kept pace by building upward and creeping inland a few meters per year. But raised roadbeds, cities, farms and increasing land elevation can leave wetlands with nowhere to go. Sea-level rise projections for midcentury suggest the waterline will be shifting 15 to 100 times faster than wetland migration has been clocked.
-Written by Randall W. Parkinson, Research Associate Professor in Coastal Geology, Florida International University.

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Aquafornia news California Rice News

News release: Application period closing for nesting bird habitat incentive program

The Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program is still accepting applications for the Delayed Cereal Grain Harvest and Fallow Agriculture programs until end of day Wednesday, April 10. If you have winter planted cereal grains, winter planted cover crops or farm fields that will be left fallow this growing season, these programs could be a great fit for your operations. You must be willing to leave them undisturbed and or delay harvest until at least July 15th. Below are key details for each of the program.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

News release: Objection period begins for the Meeks Bay Restoration Project

The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) released the final environmental review documents and draft decision for the Meeks Bay Restoration Project.  The LTBMU, in conjunction with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, is developing a plan to restore Meeks Creek to a more natural condition, while continuing to support sustainable recreation opportunities.   In 1960, a marina with approximately 120 boat slips and a boat launch facility was dredged at the mouth of Meeks Creek, on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. The marina eliminated a unique wetland habitat for numerous bird, mammal, and amphibian species. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Waterfowl flock again to valley rice fields

The return of fully planted rice crops to the Sacramento Valley following years of drought has restored another essential feature of the region. After harvest, reservoirs replenished by last year’s historic storms enabled farmers to flood more of their fields this winter, creating wetland habitat for migrating waterfowl. … Today, around 300,000 acres of the valley’s rice paddies are flooded each winter to provide food and shelter for 7 million ducks and geese, according to the California Rice Commission. More than 200 species of wildlife, including threatened species such as Sandhill Cranes, rely on the fields. Especially over the past decade, state and federal programs have been developed to incentivize winter flooding, defraying some of the cost, and rice farmers have embraced their role in wildlife conservation.

Western Water Nick Cahill California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

New California Law Bolsters Groundwater Recharge as Strategic Defense Against Climate Change
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Designates Aquifers 'Natural Infrastructure' to Boost Funding for Water Supply, Flood Control, Wildlife Habitat

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater.

The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

California Spent Decades Trying to Keep Central Valley Floods at Bay. Now It Looks to Welcome Them Back
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Floodplain restoration gets a policy and funding boost as interest grows in projects that bring multiple benefits to respond to climate change impacts

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.

Western Water By Alastair Bland

SIDEBAR: Creating A Floodplain Buffet for Salmon Smolts

Biologists have designed a variety of unique experiments in the past decade to demonstrate the benefits that floodplains provide for small fish. Tracking studies have used acoustic tags to show that chinook salmon smolts with access to inundated fields are more likely than their river-bound cohorts to reach the Pacific Ocean. This is because the richness of floodplains offers a vital buffet of nourishment on which young salmon can capitalize, supercharging their growth and leading to bigger, stronger smolts.

Water-Starved Colorado River Delta Gets Another Shot of Life from the River’s Flows
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Despite water shortages along the drought-stressed river, experimental flows resume in Mexico to revive trees and provide habitat for birds and wildlife

Water flowing into a Colorado River Delta restoration site in Mexico.Water is flowing once again to the Colorado River’s delta in Mexico, a vast region that was once a natural splendor before the iconic Western river was dammed and diverted at the turn of the last century, essentially turning the delta into a desert.

In 2012, the idea emerged that water could be intentionally sent down the river to inundate the delta floodplain and regenerate native cottonwood and willow trees, even in an overallocated river system. Ultimately, dedicated flows of river water were brokered under cooperative efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Western Water California Water Map By Gary Pitzer

Long Troubled Salton Sea May Finally Be Getting What it Most Needs: Action — And Money
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's largest lake could see millions in potential funding to supercharge improvements to address long-delayed habitat and dust suppression needs

A sunset along the shoreline of California's Salton Sea.State work to improve wildlife habitat and tamp down dust at California’s ailing Salton Sea is finally moving forward. Now the sea may be on the verge of getting the vital ingredient needed to supercharge those restoration efforts – money.

The shrinking desert lake has long been a trouble spot beset by rising salinity and unhealthy, lung-irritating dust blowing from its increasingly exposed bed. It shadows discussions of how to address the Colorado River’s two-decade-long drought because of its connection to the system. The lake is a festering health hazard to nearby residents, many of them impoverished, who struggle with elevated asthma risk as dust rises from the sea’s receding shoreline. 

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

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.

Long Criticized For Inaction At Salton Sea, California Says It’s All-In On Effort To Preserve State’s Largest Lake
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Dust suppression, habitat are key elements in long-term plan to aid sea, whose ills have been a sore point in Colorado River management

The Salton Sea is a major nesting, wintering and stopover site for about 400 bird species. Out of sight and out of mind to most people, the Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the desert lake from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and surrounded by clouds of choking dust.

The sea’s problems stretch beyond its boundaries in Imperial and Riverside counties and threaten to undermine multistate management of the Colorado River. A 2019 Drought Contingency Plan for the Lower Colorado River Basin was briefly stalled when the Imperial Irrigation District, holding the river’s largest water allocation, balked at participating in the plan because, the district said, it ignored the problems of the Salton Sea.  

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

‘Mission-Oriented’ Colorado River Veteran Takes the Helm as the US Commissioner of IBWC
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Jayne Harkins’ duties include collaboration with Mexico on Colorado River supply, water quality issues

Jayne Harkins, the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission.For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.

Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.

And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta

ON THE ROAD: Park Near Historic Levee Rupture Offers Glimpse of Old Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Big Break Regional Shoreline will be a stop on Bay-Delta Tour May 16-18

Visitors explore a large, three-dimensional map of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Along the banks of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich soil.

That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush, settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape and altering the habitat.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Two Countries, One River: Crafting a New Agreement
Fall 2016

As vital as the Colorado River is to the United States and Mexico, so is the ongoing process by which the two countries develop unique agreements to better manage the river and balance future competing needs.

The prospect is challenging. The river is over allocated as urban areas and farmers seek to stretch every drop of their respective supplies. Since a historic treaty between the two countries was signed in 1944, the United States and Mexico have periodically added a series of arrangements to the treaty called minutes that aim to strengthen the binational ties while addressing important water supply, water quality and environmental concerns.


Looking to the Source: Watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
Published 2011

This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.

The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

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.


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.


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.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

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.

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

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

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 Area Office.

Maps & Posters

Unwelcome Visitors

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explains how non-native invasive animals can alter the natural ecosystem, leading to the demise of native animals. “Unwelcome Visitors” features photos and information on four such species – including the zerbra mussel – and explains the environmental and economic threats posed by these species.


Layperson’s Guide to the Klamath River Basin
Published 2023

The Water Education Foundation’s second edition of the Layperson’s Guide to The Klamath River Basin is hot off the press and available for purchase.

Updated and redesigned, the easy-to-read overview covers the history of the region’s tribal, agricultural and environmental relationships with one of the West’s largest rivers — and a vast watershed that hosts one of the nation’s oldest and largest reclamation projects.

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

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.

Aquapedia background Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map


Sacramento National Wildlife RefugeWetlands are among the world’s most important and hardest-working ecosystems, rivaling rainforests and coral reefs in productivity. 

They produce high levels of oxygen, filter water pollutants, sequester carbon, reduce flooding and erosion and recharge groundwater.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway is one of four major North American migration routes for birds, especially waterfowl, and extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, to Mexico and South America. Each year, birds follow ancestral patterns as they travel the flyway on their annual north-south migration. Along the way, they need stopover sites such as wetlands with suitable habitat and food supplies. In California, 90 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.

Aquapedia background

Central Valley Wetlands and Riparian Habitat

In the Central Valley, wetlands—partly or seasonally saturated land that supports aquatic life and distinct ecosystems— provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Western Water Magazine

An Era of New Partnerships on the Colorado River
November/December 2013

This printed issue of Western Water examines how the various stakeholders have begun working together to meet the planning challenges for the Colorado River Basin, including agreements with Mexico, increased use of conservation and water marketing, and the goal of accomplishing binational environmental restoration and water-sharing programs.

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

Just Add Water? Restoring the Colorado River Delta
September/October 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines the Colorado River Delta, its ecological significance and the lengths to which international, state and local efforts are targeted and achieving environmental restoration while recognizing the needs of the entire river’s many users.