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 Revelator

Nature’s supermarket: How beavers help birds — and other species

Researchers in Poland have found another reason to love beavers: They benefit wintering birds. The rodents, once maligned as destructive pests, have been getting a lot of positive press lately. And for good reason. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As they gather trees and dam waterways, they create wetlands, increase soil moisture, and allow more light to reach the ground. That drives the growth of herbaceous and shrubby vegetation, which benefits numerous animals. Bats, who enjoy the buffet of insects found along beaver ponds, are among the beneficiaries. So too are butterflies who come for the diversity of flowering plants in the meadows beavers create.

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Influential Little Hoover Commission launches its first-ever study of the California Environmental Quality Act

California’s bedrock environmental law has helped protect residents, wildlife and natural resources from pollution and other negative effects of development countless times since then-Gov. Ronald Reagan put it on the books more than half a century ago. But the California Environmental Quality Act, better known as CEQA, sometimes is weaponized by competing businesses, labor unions and anti-development neighbors who aren’t necessarily motivated by environmental concerns. … Supporters say the law has blocked or forced changes for hundreds of projects that would have worsened air, water and soil pollution…. Witnesses spelled out those competing realities during an all-day hearing Thursday before the Little Hoover Commission which, for the first time, is studying whether to recommend changes to the environmental law.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

LDS Church to permanently donate thousands of acre-feet of water to the Great Salt Lake

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the wealthiest and most influential institutions in Utah, plans to donate a pool of water to help save the Great Salt Lake. The Utah Department of Natural Resources, which helps manage the lake, announced the gift Wednesday morning. The donation amounts to about 20,000 acre-feet worth of shares that the church holds in the North Point Consolidated Irrigation Co. … Although the lake is the nation’s largest saline system, it has run a water deficit of about 1.2 million acre-feet in recent years. This winter’s substantial snowpack, however, will likely raise its elevation by at least a few feet. It currently sits at about 4,190 feet above sea level but needs to rise to around 4,200 feet to reach an elevation that’s sustainable for wildlife, recreation and lake-based industries like brine shrimp and mineral harvesting.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

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

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

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Restore California’s floodplains to capture more stormwater

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

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California must intervene on Mono Lake water dispute with L.A.

Even with winter’s remarkable rainfall, Mono Lake will not rise enough to reduce unhealthy dust storms that billow off the exposed lakebed and violate air quality standards. Nor will it offset increasing salinity levels that threaten Mono Lake Kutzadika’a tribe’s cultural resources and food for millions of migratory birds. Any gain Mono Lake makes surely won’t last due to the [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's] ongoing diversions….If DWP won’t voluntarily cooperate in finding a way to protect Mono Lake, then the State Water Board needs to step up and save Mono Lake – again.
-Written by Martha Davis, a board member for the Mono Lake Committee.

Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

Blog: Ducks Unlimited’s California projects show why wetlands can help with floods

Before Californians built a network of levees and dams to keep cities from flooding, the rivers that formed the Central Valley each winter would spill out of their channels. In the wettest years, they’d flood to form a massive inland sea that stretched hundreds of miles from Redding to Bakersfield. In wet winters such as this one, those rivers keep trying to form that massive seasonal wetland again, testing the strength of the levees that protect communities built on the state’s floodplains. Along two of the state’s most flood-prone rivers, Ducks Unlimited has been working to create wetlands that use those natural flood patterns to create vital habitat for waterbirds and wildlife. The projects highlight why Californians should look to wetland expansion as one of the solutions to help reduce the risks from future floods.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

House GOP votes to overturn Biden administration water protections

The House on Thursday voted to overturn the Biden administration’s protections for thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, advancing long-held Republican arguments that the regulations are an environmental overreach and burden to business. The vote was 227-198 to overturn the rule. House Republicans used the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block recently enacted executive-branch regulations. The measure now heads to the Senate, where Republicans hope to attract Democratic senators wary of Biden’s environmental policies. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a frequent Biden antagonist, has already pledged to support the overturn of a rule he calls federal overreach. Biden said he would veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Visit groundwater’s epicenter on April Central Valley Tour; check out groundwater resources

Explore the epicenter of groundwater sustainability on our Central Valley Tour April 26-28 and engage directly with some of the most important leaders and experts in water storage, management and delivery, agriculture, habitat, land use policy and water equity. The tour focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, which has struggled with consistently little to no surface water deliveries and increasing pressure to reduce groundwater usage to sustainable levels while also facing water quality and access challenges for disadvantaged communities. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater expert Thomas Harter, Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis, the tour explores topics such as subsidence, water supply and drought, flood management, groundwater banking and recharge, surface water storage, agricultural supply and drainage, wetlands and more. Register here!

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Flowing water is not wasted. How healthy rivers help people

It’s a familiar scenario: Rising rivers are pinched off from the flood plains that could have spread, slowed and stored the sudden abundance of water. Floodwaters break through levees and leave destruction and heartbreaking loss in their wake. Renewed frustration and fury enter the public dialogue about “wasted” water. … River managers use the term “environmental flows” to describe the water that’s allowed to stay in rivers to nurture the ecosystem, as opposed to water diverted or stored for farms, cities or hydropower. While I worked at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, we dove in deep on environmental flows, calculating an environmental flow management strategy for every major tributary to the San Joaquin River, which nourishes the valley that bears its name. 
-Written by Ann Willis, California Regional Director for American Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and protecting rivers across the country.

Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

New research: Climate warming is likely to cause large increases in wetland methane emissions

A new USGS study shows that a warming climate is likely to cause freshwater wetlands to release substantially more methane than under normal conditions. This finding has big implications for climate mitigation strategies focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from people. … Methane is a gas that produces a strong greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. It’s estimated to be contributing about 25% to warming temperatures from climate change. But it works very differently than carbon dioxide—the better-known greenhouse gas.

Aquafornia news Quartz

US coastal wetlands are disappearing. Here’s how to save them

As the effects of heat-trapping pollution continue to raise sea levels, wetlands dotting American coastlines could drown — or they could flourish. Their fate will depend upon rates of sea-level rise, how quickly the plants can grow, and whether there’s space inland into which they can migrate. Climate Central modeled how American coastal wetlands will respond to sea level rise in an array of potential scenarios. It found that conserving land for wetlands to migrate into is a decisive factor in whether wetlands will survive or drown. Wetlands and development have long been in conflict, with ecological values weighed against waterfront economic opportunities. As seas rise, benefits of conserving areas inland for wetland migration are creating new tensions. And as climate change intensifies storms and elevate high tides and storm surges, the economic values of wetlands are growing.

Aquafornia news USC News

The water wars of the future are here today

Once hailed as the “American Nile,” the Colorado River spans 1,450 miles and supplies nearly 40 million people across seven states plus northern Mexico with drinking water, irrigation for farmland and hydroelectric power. But after decades of drought and overuse, major reservoirs along the river are drying up. As the Colorado River levels drop to historic lows, tensions are rising between the seven states that depend on its flow — Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Their original agreement for distributing the river water lacked foresight and failed to account for dire circumstances like long-term drought. The American Southwest now faces a crisis it knew was coming. 

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

Hundreds of pigeons dead from water born disease in Northern California

Reports of at least 200 sick or dead band-tailed pigeons throughout Northern California could be linked to an outbreak of avian trichomonosis, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). – Video above: Blizzard Conditions force closure of Interstate 80 Since early February, reports have been coming in from residents located along the Central Coast, the Bay Area and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The band-tailed pigeon is native to California and during the winter is often gathering acorns for the winter from central California to Southern California.

Aquafornia news CBS News

Will Utah’s Great Salt Lake disappear?

Utah’s Great Salt Lake doesn’t look so “great” these days. This place where tourists once bobbed up and down like corks in water far saltier than the ocean is now quite literally turning to dust. … Climate change and the West’s historic megadrought certainly haven’t done the lake any favors, but it’s the diversion of water away from the lake that Romney says is less than divine: “The water in this area helped us bloom like a rose, as the Scripture says. And yeah, we’ve got trees and beautiful lawns. But some of that’s gonna have to change.” Most of the lake’s water is spoken for long before it gets there. It’s not just those green lawns for Utah’s exploding population; 70% of the water goes to agriculture. And then there’s the billion-dollar-a-year mineral extraction industry. It uses the lake’s water, too.

Aquafornia news Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Rivers have sustained vineyards for centuries, now it’s time to return the favor

What do Bordeaux, Loire, Mosel, Rhine, Rhône, Douro, Napa, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Tokaj and the Wachau all have in common? If you said they are all major wine regions split by rivers or laced with tributaries, pour yourself a glass of wine. It may seem obvious, but wine wouldn’t exist without water. And rivers deliver it. For centuries that has meant soil, sediment, nutrients, warming and cooling influences and, of course, water, all traveling along riverbanks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), today the United States alone has more than 3 million miles of rivers and streams—and many of those miles have historically made agriculture, including viticulture, possible. … Running around 50 miles from Mt. St. Helena in the north and spilling into the San Pablo Bay, the Napa River is home to plants, endangered critters and some of the most valuable acreage of grapevines in the country.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Ninth Circuit restores Trump-era gut of Clean Water Act rule

A Ninth Circuit panel on Tuesday revived a Trump-era Clean Water Act regulation, finding the lower court lacked authority to vacate the rule without finding it unlawful. In 2021, U.S. District Judge William Alsup vacated a Trump administration revision of the “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule,” which narrows what issues state and tribal governments can consider when determining whether a project, particularly one discharging pollution into a waterway, complies with state water quality standards. The rule affected the permitting and relicensing process for thousands of industrial projects, including natural gas pipelines, hydroelectric plants, wastewater treatment facilities and construction sites near sensitive wetlands. Beginning September 2020, states could no longer consider a project’s effects on air emissions and road traffic congestion.

Aquafornia news

Climate change, urbanization drive major declines in L.A.’s birds

Climate change isn’t the only threat facing California’s birds. Over the course of the 20th century, urban sprawl and agricultural development have dramatically changed the landscape of the state, forcing many native species to adapt to new and unfamiliar habitats. In a new study, biologists at the University of California, Berkeley, use current and historical bird surveys to reveal how land use change has amplified—and in some cases mitigated—the impacts of climate change on bird populations in Los Angeles and the Central Valley.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The supershed approach

I often tell people in Placer County that the Sacramento Valley is a national leader in delivering high quality water to farms, wildlife refuges, and all of our residents in a sustainable way.  But what does this really mean in practice?  I was recently asked to author an article for the American Water Resources Association’s IMPACT magazine to give an example to our ridgetop to river mouth “Supershed” approach.  I am sharing the article with you today, which discusses why it is so important to our collective future to make sure we take a broad view of water and natural resource management in our respective watersheds. 

Aquafornia news WBUR

Future of the Salton Sea is tied to fate of imperiled Colorado River

A shortage on the Colorado River has put tremendous pressure on the water supply that serves more than 40-million people in the Western United States. But a punishing drought and the over allocation of the river have also created an urgent problem for California’s Salton Sea. The 340-square-mile lake was formed in 1905 when a canal carrying river water to farmers in the Imperial Valley ruptured. The flood created a desert oasis that lured tourists and migratory birds to its shore. A century later, the Salton Sea — California’s largest lake — is spiraling into an ecological disaster. At 223 feet below sea level, Bombay Beach occupies a low spot on the map. Many of the shoreline community’s trailer homes are rusting into the earth and tagged with graffiti. Artists have created large pieces of public sculpture, including a vintage phone booth that stands on the shoreline as a tribute to a bygone era.

Aquafornia news Kronick

Blog: Federal agencies redefine Clean Water Act’s reach over wetlands and other U.S. waters

A new definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) will help drive the regulatory reach of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or Clean Water Act (“CWA”), starting March 20, 2023. The term WOTUS is used to determine the extent to which the CWA applies to different types of water bodies, such as rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and other water resources. Redefining WOTUS changes the scope of CWA programs imposing water quality standards, allocating total maximum daily loads of pollutants to impaired waters, certifying CWA Section 401 compliance, regulating the discharge of pollutants through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, and regulating the discharge of dredged or fill material under CWA Section 404 permits.

Aquafornia news Utah Public Radio

Utah legislature considers changing approach to saving Great Salt Lake

A bill that will be introduced in the Utah State Legislature will task one person with overseeing efforts to save the Great Salt Lake. The position, currently titled the “Great Salt Lake Commissioner,” will coordinate with government agencies, environmental, tribal and industry groups and come up with a master plan for the future of the lake. … The bill is expected to be made public in the Utah State Legislature soon. It would be a significant change in approach to how the state is responding to the lake shrinking to historic lows and the environmental catastrophe it presents with toxic dust storms, reduced snowpack and harms to wildlife and public health.

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.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Great Salt Lake’s retreat poses a major fear: poisonous dust clouds

To walk on to the Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere which faces the astounding prospect of disappearing just five years from now, is to trudge across expanses of sand and mud, streaked with ice and desiccated aquatic life, where just a short time ago you would be wading in waist-deep water. … The terror comes from toxins laced in the vast exposed lake bed, such as arsenic, mercury and lead, being picked up by the wind to form poisonous clouds of dust that would swamp the lungs of people in nearby Salt Lake City, where air pollution is often already worse than that of Los Angeles, potentially provoking a myriad of respiratory and cancer-related problems. … [T]he Great Salt Lake is being parched by an antediluvian network of water rights for agriculture rather than thirsty newcomers. About three-quarters of the diverted water goes to growing crops, with the growing of alfalfa …

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

The edges matter: Hedgerows are bringing life back to farms

More than 20 years ago, Craig McNamara started planting woody vegetation on his family’s farm, west of Sacramento, California. McNamara was an early organic pioneer in the region, and he prioritized weaving nature into the agricultural landscape at a time when it was far from popular. Native shrubs and trees lined a creek that ran through the walnut farm. Plants became boundaries between orchards and row crops—i.e., hedgerows—and it didn’t take long for the 450-acre organic farm to come “alive,” says Craig’s son, Sean McNamara, who joined the operation in 2014. Bees, owls, ladybugs, and many other creatures still routinely visit the farm. Just a few weeks ago, a bobcat strolled through the bushes along the creek.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Risky dam above Marin County beach needs to come down, agency says

The National Park Service is advancing its plan to remove a Tennessee Valley dam that has been classified as having a high risk of failure and threatens public safety at a nearby beach. The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Thursday to endorse the park service’s proposed project, which also includes restoring acres of wetland habitat that has been affected by the dam over the decades. … Built in the early 1960s by the former landowner to attract waterfowl for hunting, the earthen dam was one of the many artificial structures inherited by the National Park Service after the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was founded in 1972. The dam and its holding pond are accessible on the Tennessee Valley Trail and are about 900 feet from Tennessee Beach.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press Democrat

State pact seeks to advance fixes to Highway 37 flooding and traffic woes

A coalition of state traffic and environmental agencies announced Wednesday they will work together to redesign Highway 37, the North Bay’s key east-west route, adding new lanes in each direction to help unclog traffic and advancing other near-term fixes to address chronic flooding problems. The effort, which state and local officials touted as historic, focuses on the 21-mile state highway linking Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties from Interstate 80 in the east to Highway 101 at Novato in the west. Daily, it is traversed by 40,000 vehicles. Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, one of several local and state officials who have championed solutions for the route, hailed the partnership as a “significant milestone” that will reduce congestion and address climate change.

Aquafornia news Huffington Post

He paid $1 million for destroying wetlands. Now he’s fighting clean water rules in Congress

More than 200 Republican members of Congress introduced legislation last week to strike down a Biden administration rule restoring long-standing federal protections for hundreds of thousands of streams and wetlands across the country — safeguards that the Trump administration dismantled in 2020. Among the co-sponsors of the House resolution is Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), who in 2017 paid $1.1 million in fines for illegally plowing 22 acres of federally protected streams and wetlands on his farm. The settlement followed a yearslong legal battle that started when Duarte hired a contractor to “rip,” or deep till, his entire 450-acre property before planting wheat, including areas with federally protected waters.

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 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.

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 most important and hardest-working ecosystems in the world, rivaling rain forests and coral reefs in productivity of life. 

They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of water, sequester carbon, reduce flooding and erosion, recharge groundwater and provide a diverse range of recreational opportunities from fishing and hunting to photography. They also serve as critical habitat for wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on California’s endangered species list.

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

Pacific Flyway

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

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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.