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 Fox 40 - Sacramento

Shrinking wetlands have an impact on migratory birds in the Sacramento Valley, biologists say

Every winter, millions of migrating birds come to the Sacramento Valley, but now these birds may find the marshes and flooded rice fields dry. The marshes and flooded rice fields here are a stopping point for the birds along the Pacific flyway, and scientists are now putting GPS trackers on birds to learn how they’re reacting to the dry environment. “A migratory pathway for waterfowl and shorebirds that are coming from northern areas, moving into the Central Valley and looking for spots to feed, to rest and continue on their journey farther south to warmer areas in the winter, and then heading back north again in the spring,” Samantha Arthur, Audubon California Working Lands Program Director, said.

Aquafornia news The Nature Conservancy

Blog: We must save fresh water to save ourselves

As the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss come to a head this decade, the fate of our fresh water lies in the balance. Extreme weather is becoming increasingly common, bringing massive rainfall and flooding in some regions and widespread heat and drought in others, with disastrous impacts on both humans and nature. At the same time, we have lost nearly a third of the world’s freshwater ecosystems and 83% of monitored freshwater species since 1970, a rate that is significantly higher than that of terrestrial and marine species in the same timeframe. Freshwater ecosystems deliver the water on which all life depends. The urgency to better protect them is now.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Helping endangered rabbit may reduce flooding risk

Saving the endangered Riparian brush rabbits could also protect large swaths of rural south Manteca as well as part of Lathrop from flooding. It is because efforts of the non-profit River Partners at the 2,100-acre Dos Rios Preserve located at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers to assist the rabbit subspecies, five endangered birds, and three endangered fish could also provide 10,000 acre feet of critical transient floodwater storage to reduce flood stages as far north as Stockton. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Novato wetlands project gets $2.2M state allocation

The California State Coastal Conservancy has allotted $2.2 million to a North Bay research group to take over caretaking responsibilities and volunteer work for one of Marin County’s largest wetland restoration sites. The Point Blue Conservation Science nonprofit research group received the funds to continue the upkeep of nearly 200 acres of the Hamilton wetlands and forthcoming Bel Marin Keys wetlands near Novato for the next two years. Its responsibilities include maintenance, replacing aged or damaged interpretive signs and kiosks, running the native plant nursery, planting, watering, coordinating volunteer groups and leading school field trips.

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Aquafornia news Grist

Salton Sea public health disaster gets a $250 million ’shot in the arm’

Last week, the federal government announced it will spend a quarter of a billion dollars over four years to clean up what remains of the Salton Sea, a lake in southern California that has been shrinking due to climate change-driven drought.  For decades, communities living near the sea have been afflicted by health problems caused by algae blooms and dust storms spurred by wind kicking up drying sediment from the sea’s ever-widening shores. The government’s new plan aims to help remediate some of those health impacts while simultaneously encouraging farms in the region to reduce their reliance on water from the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Desert hikes are stunning, thanks to invisible waterways

I know a lot of people think of deserts as big, empty, lifeless wastelands — that’s one of the reasons it can be tough to get folks to care about protecting them. But when I moved to Southern California from New England, my desert enchantment was immediate and deep. One of the things that struck me most about exploring the deserts here was that the slower I went, the more I saw. … Take the Amargosa River, which flows for 185 miles and drains a 5,500-square-mile basin in Nevada and California before feeding the aquifer remnants of ancient Lake Manly in Death Valley. It’s the seventh-longest river in California, but you could be forgiven for not noticing it, since it spends almost all its time underground. Its water provides habitat for the improbable Devil’s Hole pupfish …
-Written by Casey Schreiner, a writer, producer, presenter and author who has taken over The Wild newsletter for the next few months. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Great Salt Lake and other shrinking salty lakes get $5M in funding

A bipartisan bill meant to address declining saline lakes in the West, including the Great Salt Lake, passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous approval Wednesday. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced and co-sponsored the Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act with Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Roy Wyden of Oregon and Diane Feinstein of California. The bill earmarks $5 million each year over five years for the U.S. Geological Survey to study saline lakes throughout the Great Basin…. Owens and Mono lakes in California are also named, which water diversions have turned into sources of toxic and dangerous blowing dust. 

Aquafornia news High Country News

Federal, state and local agencies reach agreement to address Salton Sea crisis

At a special meeting of California’s Imperial Irrigation District this week, the influential water agency voted 3-2 to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District regarding the management of the Salton Sea. The deal, which would provide $250 million for restoration, is by far the largest injection of federal funds to date for the ailing sea. The federal funds will go toward environmentally beneficial projects, including air quality improvements, public health programs and ecosystem restoration projects.

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Aquafornia news Nautilus

Why we need muck to fight rising sea levels

It’s a golden summer day, and I’m standing on a low coastal levee, overlooking a pond at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve that looks positively apocalyptic. … This pond is a legacy of a salt industry that has moved elsewhere. A few decades ago, when flying into San Francisco or San Jose, the ground beneath looked like a giant’s Easter egg dip. Ponds of blue, yellow, green, red, purple, orange, and pink ringed the South Bay. People had built low levees in semicircles from the shore, sectioning off portions of the bay to let the water evaporate, leaving behind the salt…. Humans are often inclined to build seawalls to protect coastal communities from encroaching oceans, but those require constant, expensive maintenance.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

IID approves possible $250 million Salton Sea deal with feds, state

Southern California’s powerful Imperial Irrigation District voted late Tuesday 3-2 to ink an agreement with federal and state officials that could yield as much as $250 million for Salton Sea restoration projects in exchange for not using another 250,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water… The vote came despite livid objections from Imperial County farmers and environmental groups, who questioned why such a major agreement was being voted on just 24 hours after it was made public, and four days before two newly elected board members are slated to be sworn in to the five-member panel….But director JB Hamby, agreeing with a majority of the board and the district’s general manager and water director said, “there is no down side” to the agreement … because while it does not bind the district to cuts, it guarantees critical federal support if cuts are implemented.

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Aquafornia news KQED

How the climate crisis is changing the Bay Area bird population

The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary in Western North America and a key link in the 4,000-mile Pacific Flyway, one of the primary migratory routes used by birds to move north and south across the continent. It’s a place where birds come to rest and refuel for their long trip, or breed and nest the next generation. But in the span of a few human generations, 90% of California’s wetlands have disappeared to development and agriculture, endangering migrating and local birds. Now drought and sea level rise are further diminishing important bird habitats. As climate change becomes a bigger threat to the Bay Area’s local and migratory birds, scientists and conservationists work to help habitats adapt to climate change to ensure bird’s futures.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California’s Salton Sea to get $250 million in U.S. drought funding

The federal government said Monday it will spend $250 million over four years on environmental cleanup and restoration work around a drying Southern California lake that’s fed by the depleted Colorado River. The future of the Salton Sea — and who is financially responsible for it — has been a key issue in discussions over how to stave off a crisis in the Colorado River. The lake was formed in 1905 when the river overflowed, creating a resort destination that slowly morphed into an environmental disaster as water levels receded, exposing residents to harmful dust and reducing wildlife habitat. The lake is largely fed by runoff from farms in California’s Imperial Valley, who use Colorado River water to grow many of the nation’s winter vegetables as well as feed crops such as alfalfa.

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Aquafornia news Yale E360

How floating wetlands are helping to clean up urban waters

Five small islands roughly the size of backyard swimming pools float next to the concrete riverbank of Bubbly Creek, a stretch of the Chicago River named for the gas that once rose to the surface after stockyards dumped animal waste and byproducts into the waterway. Clumps of short, native grasses and plants, including sedges, swamp milkweed, and queen of the prairie, rise from a gravel-like material spread across each artificial island’s surface. A few rectangles cut from their middles hold bottomless baskets, structures that will, project designers hope, provide an attachment surface for freshwater mussels that once flourished in the river.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: The troubled history—and uncertain future—of the Salton Sea

When an irrigation canal was breached in the early 1900s, the resulting flood created Southern California’s Salton Sea. It was a rare event that quickly created a beneficial presence in the Imperial Valley, as the lake provided recreation opportunities, tamped down dust, and became a stopover for birds on the Pacific Flyway. But now, with inflows declining, this hundred-year-old sea is drying up, and that’s having a host of negative consequences for wildlife and air quality in the region. We spoke with Kurt Schwabe—professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside and adjunct fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about some of the biggest issues facing the sea, as well as potential solutions.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Newport Beach, Newport Bay Conservancy look ahead to Big Canyon restoration project

Discussion of restoring Big Canyon, which has long been impacted by human activity and development as Orange County grew, started in 2002, according to project manager and Newport Beach assistant city engineer Bob Stein, but nothing came of it until about 2015. … That led to Phase I, which cost roughly $1.6 million and recently concluded its monitoring period. That phase addressed roughly 6 acres of the park and focused on the rehabilitation of the creek that runs through it and riparian restoration. Urban runoff was diverted to a water treatment center.

Aquafornia news Palo Alto Weekly

Palo Alto partners with Mountain View, other Peninsula cities in planning colossal upgrade to wastewater plant

Seeking to modernize aged equipment and cut down on the nitrogen that flows into the San Francisco Bay, Palo Alto and its partners are embarking on an ambitious makeover of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, a project that will cost $193 million and take about five years to complete. The City Council is preparing to approve next month a $161 million contract with Anderson Pacific Engineering Construction to upgrade the wastewater treatment system at the regional plant on Embarcadero Road, near the Baylands. … A key goal of the upgrade is to reduce this outflow of nitrogen, which causes algae to bloom in the bay, [plant manager] Jamie Allen said. Over the summer, the a red algae bloom across the region killed fish throughout the area.

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

The befouling of Point Reyes National Seashore

It’s an October morning at Point Reyes National Seashore and I’m scooting under barbed wire fences, wary of sliding into cow pies.  My guide on this safari is Jocelyn Knight, wildlife photographer. We’re stalking a toxic waste dump hidden from public view behind a hill at “Historic E Ranch, established circa 1859” land lorded by the National Park Service. Park regulations require Seashore pastures to remain open to the public, but the dump is inside the E Ranch “core” of barns and dwellings, and the public is disallowed. … According to EHS investigators, a septic tank was installed without the required permit; its sewage level exceeded the operational limit; they could not locate a leach field. The ranch land drains into the Pacific.

Aquafornia news Patch - Venice

‘We Will Win’ actor James Cromwell against bulldozing Ballona wetlands

Oscar-nominated actor and star of “Succession” spoke in support of lawsuits aiming to stop a project that plans to bulldoze the Ballona Wetlands on Sunday. More than 200 residents of Venice, Culver City, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey attended an event held by Defend Ballona Wetlands where Cromwell spoke about his support and involvement with the organization. Cromwell said Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Ballona Institute, approached him 25 years ago asking him to visit the wetlands. When he did, Cromwell said it was moving and he knew he wanted to do whatever it took to support efforts to protect it.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Toss of Trump-era Clean Water Act rule roils Ninth Circuit panel

A Ninth Circuit panel on Tuesday heard arguments on whether federal judges can vacate a rule by the Trump-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency without finding the rule unlawful. In July 2020, the Trump administration revised the “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule,” which narrowed 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. 

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tahoe’s largest wetland restoration wraps up construction after 3 years

Major construction is complete for the multi-year Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration project, Lake Tahoe’s largest ever wetland restoration, the California Tahoe Conservancy announced Monday.  The Conservancy has completed steps to repair damage caused by 20th century development, restoring and enhancing hundreds of acres of wetland habitat. A new trail offers improved access for all to experience and enjoy the lake’s shoreline. 

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

New satellite will see water’s big picture

By foot, horse, and canoe, European explorers centuries ago undertook years-long expeditions to document the length and breadth of major rivers. Today, satellites make the first pass of discovery. Though rivers meander and melting glaciers birth new lakes annually, the world’s major drainages have largely been mapped. Yet one fundamental dimension remains largely a mystery: the rise and fall of water bodies globally. Accurately measuring, at low-cost, the weekly changes in rivers, lakes, and wetlands would allow scientists to observe how much water moves through them. Land-based gauges do some of this work. But where gauges are scarce — Alaska, Africa, Asian headwaters — these numbers are inaccurate or unknown. 

Aquafornia news Utah Business

Not all of the ideas to save the Great Salt Lake are good ones

You’ve probably heard by now, but the Great Salt Lake is drying up. The lake reached record lows this summer, dropping to 4,190.1 feet in July. To put this in perspective, the lake was flexing about 3,000 square miles in the 90s. Now, it’s withered to less than 1,000.  There are some obvious things we can do about this, mostly on the agricultural side of things. But now we’re hearing of all kinds of less obvious ways we could save it, like amplifying snow storms or piping in water from California, among other ideas. … One of those ideas is called cloud seeding. The Utah Division of Water Resources explains it this way: “Ground-based seeders shoot silver iodide into winter clouds where it helps form ice crystals. 

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Solano board supports moving Highway 37 plan forward

The Solano County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to Caltrans supporting the Highway 37 Interim Project for interim and long-term solutions to congestion and sea rise issues. One of those solutions, Supervisor Erin Hannigan said, will eventually be making the highway a toll road, which she said many of the motorists using Highway 37 have indicated they support if it means less congestion. “Due to current and projected traffic congestion and flooding of the (Highway 37) corridor, the region requires both an interim and long-term solution to address these pressing concerns, including balancing a variety of transportation needs with enhancing recreational opportunities and protecting and enhancing sensitive marshland habitats,” …

Aquafornia news Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

New research: Accumulation, transformation and transport of microplastics in estuarine fronts

Millions of tons of riverine plastic waste enter the ocean via estuaries annually. The plastics accumulate, fragment, mix and interact with organisms in these dynamic systems, but such processes have received limited attention relative to open-ocean sites. In this Perspective, we discuss the occurrence and convergence of microplastics at estuarine fronts, focusing on their interactions with physical, geochemical and biological processes. Microplastic transformation can be enhanced within frontal systems owing to strong turbulence and interactions with sediment and biological particles, exacerbating the potential ecosystem impacts. The formation of microplastic hotspots at estuarine fronts could be a target for future plastic pollution mitigation efforts. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

The Great Salt Lake’s brine flies are in crisis mode. What does that mean for birds?

As the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink to unprecedented levels, a key component of its landscape and food web is missing. The lake is known for thick, black clusters of brine flies by the billions, which pupate in its salty water then gather in dense mats to reproduce on shore. The insectile masses occasionally gross out beachgoers, but the bugs are harmless to humans. Crucially, they provide a nutrient-rich feast for millions of migrating birds. This year, however, the fly swarms are gone. And something’s off about the few bugs that remain. Scientists say it’s a sign the lake’s ecological demise is here.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Surprise bird-rich wetlands emerge on dry lakebed of shrinking Salton Sea

In February 2020, Andrea Jones scrambled up Obsidian Butte, a lava dome on the southeastern corner of Salton Sea. Amid the expanse of dry, exposed lakebed, the result of decades of water diversions and ongoing drought, she also saw a glimmer of green—unexpected reeds and cattails taking hold around the edge of the sea, signs of budding wetlands. … Agricultural drains—dozens of ditches and pipes directing water off nearby farmland—once flowed directly into the sea. But as the sea shrinks, their outflow now trickles and meanders across exposed playa, allowing wetlands to form. They are a happy surprise amid an otherwise desperate scene at the Salton Sea, a 343-square-mile inland saltwater lake and the largest remaining body of water in California.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin Headlands wetlands project seeks to reverse erosion

The Marin Headlands’ unique offering of breathtaking landscapes mixed with former military bases dating back to World War II has been a draw for millions of visitors through the decades. But the combination has not been without downsides. In the hills overlooking Rodeo Beach, the remnants of former U.S. Army buildings of Fort Cronkhite have slowly been eroding parts of the landscape, gouging deep trench-like gullies into the hillside that have drained natural wetlands. The National Park Service is now working to reverse the damage and restore more than an acre of wetlands that can be used as home to species such as the endangered red-legged frog, said park service ecologist Darren Fong.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

‘Our climate ally’: Why Utah scientists are enlisting beavers — yes, beavers — to fight wildfires, drought

Jay Wilde has worked on his Preston, Idaho, ranch just north of the Utah border for most of his life. Growing up, one of its biggest pests were beavers. … But after moving back in 1995, he experienced a major “paradigm shift.” With the help of Utah State University’s Beaver Ecology and Relocation Center, he opened his property as a haven for the species in 2015. Now, the area is home to over 200 beaver dams — which have increased the ranch’s creek flows and helped a vulnerable fish species thrive. … Utah State’s beaver relocation program re-homes an average of 75 beavers each year, restoring ecosystems where beavers have played a crucial role for thousands of years — all with support from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.

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Aquafornia news KESQ - Phoenix

Rep. Ruiz pushes to defend Salton Sea from federal cuts following calls to withhold funding

Congressman Raul Ruiz is calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to uphold its commitments to the Salton Sea, including millions in federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act. According to Ruiz’s office, the Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion in funding specifically for water management and conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other areas experiencing similar levels of drought. The funding includes $12.5 million to mitigate the effect of drought on Tribes. Last week, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, wrote a letter calling for the federal government to withhold money for environmental cleanup at the Salton Sea until California agrees to use less of its share of the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Audubon California

Blog: Shorebirds flock to the Salton Sea

If it wasn’t for the sun low on the horizon or the sparrows singing quickly from nearby shrubs, one would barely realize it was morning.  The heat along the Salton Sea, with some added humidity, already felt slightly oppressive.  Our shorebird survey route included the shoreline along the State of California’s Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) 4,100 acre wetland remediation project on the southwest corner of the Sea, near the New River mouth.  We found ourselves in a construction site, and after asking for access permission, were given hard hats and sent along our way to navigate a series of levees and dirt roads and look for birds.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

In southern France, drought, rising seas threaten traditions

For centuries people from across the region have observed Camarguaise bull festivities in the Rhone delta, where the Rhone river and the Mediterranean Sea meet. But now the tradition is under threat by rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts which are making water sources salty and lands infertile. At the same time, there are efforts by authorities to preserve more land, leaving less for bulls to graze. … During summers plagued by high temperatures and diminished rainfall, the sea water can reach up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the Rhone river. During a heat wave in August this year, the Raynaud family’s water pump in the Petite Rhone, an offshoot of the main river, began pumping salt water. 

Aquafornia news Palo Alto Online

Plan to restore Baylands site as parkland divides environmentalists

The most disputed parkland in Palo Alto isn’t known for its sports courts, playgrounds or sweeping vistas. Located next to the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, the 10-acre parcel commonly known as the “Measure E” site is best known as a place of opportunity. In 2011, Palo Alto residents voted to “undedicate” the parkland and make it available for a waste-to-energy plant that would treat local organic waste, but that the project never materialized. Now, the city is looking to rededicate the 10 acres as parkland, a move that is once again fomenting division within the city’s environmental community.

Aquafornia news Fairfield Daily Republic

Audubon advises taking steps against spread of avian flu

Audubon California is advising bird lovers to remove feeders and to empty bird baths as a precaution to spreading avian flu. “We know this comes at a time when drought-stressed birds need birdbaths and fountains more than ever. It is disappointing to many of us, but as this virus spreads, it’s important to keep birds healthy,” Gaylon Parsons, interim executive director of Audubon California, said in a statement released Thursday. … There have been cases of avian flu reported in 19 counties in the state, and cases in backyard flocks in Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Sacramento and Tuolumne counties. The most recent discovery was Sept. 29 in Calaveras County.

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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.


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. 

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.