Topic: Wetlands

Overview

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 Sonoma Index-Tribune

‘Damtastic!’ Newsom calls for Beaver Restoration Program

Sonoma wildlife conservationists had one word to describe Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed new Beaver Restoration program: “Damtastic!” Newsom floated the program as part of a May 13 presentation of his revised 2022-2023 fiscal budget. Pledging $1.67 million this year and $1.44 million in years thereafter, Newsom said the funds would go toward the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s efforts in developing “a comprehensive beaver management plan.” The North American Beaver is considered a “keystone species” by Fish and Wildlife …

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wine executive faces millions in fine over ruined California wetland

A wine executive faces millions in fines after razing dozens of acres of trees for a vineyard in California, water officials said. The clearing of the oak woodlands caused “significant damage to the streams and wetlands” in the former Alexander Valley Ranch in 2018, according to a news release from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Hugh Reimers and his business Krasilsa Pacific Farms, LLC face a $3.75 million fine from the state board, according to the May 24 news release.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Sonoma Co. vineyard exec faces $3.75M fine over alleged environmental violations

A well-known Sonoma County vineyard executive is facing a multi-million-dollar state fine for allegedly removing trees and destroying a small wetland on a rural patch of land east of Cloverdale. Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms could be on the hook for up to $3.75 million in fines for allegedly cutting down trees, grading, ripping and other activities near tributaries to Little Sulphur Creek, Big Sulphur Creek and Crocker Creek in the Russian River Watershed … In a complaint filed May 9, the Water Board accused Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms of also failing to abide by a 2019 cleanup and abatement order, which required them to restore the streams and wetlands.

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Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: The reservoirs under our feet

When you picture water storage, a water tower on slanted stilts imposed upon a blue sky or a concrete reservoir piping water to the city might come to mind. The issue of water storage has become a high priority as regions such as California experience severe multi-year drought and are impacted by overextraction from aquifers. … The most climate resilient and long-term strategies to address water shortage lie at our feet, in the meadows that anchor our rivers headwaters and floodplains that extend across the broad lower river valleys.

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: The 2022-2026 Science Action Agenda: Prioritizing integrated science

After nearly two years of a collaborative effort led by the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program, the wait is finally over. We’re excited and proud to present the final 2022-2026 SAA for the Delta. … Scientists, managers, and those with a stake in the Delta were invited to participate in two public workshops, four online surveys, and four review periods and were engaged in various collaborative venues. The collaborative process was a critical component of this SAA and built on the success of the 2017-2021 SAA, which guided over $35 million from the Council and its partners for management-relevant research.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Water for the Colorado River Delta in a dry year

The Colorado River is once again flowing in its delta. The flows, which began on May 1, are the result of binational collaboration and deliberate management. The water is dedicated to supporting the ecosystem and local communities in a landscape where the river has not flowed  for most years in the past half century. It is a heartening bit of good news for the Colorado River, which earlier this year was designated as America’s most endangered river.  

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Congressman Levin introduces bill to fund coastal protection

San Diego County lagoons and wetlands may get more funding for protection and restoration under the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act, introduced Tuesday by Reps. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, and Brian Mast, R-Fla. The bill would authorize $60 million per year through 2026 for the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, which distributes money to preserve the “conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, and aesthetic values of estuaries,” Levin stated. That funding could support conservation of local wetlands, including the San Mateo Creek, San Luis Rey River, San Elijo Lagoon and others…

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Aquafornia news KCBX - San Luis Obispo

Newsom proposes beaver funding

Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing funding to support what he calls a “creative climate solving hero” – the North American Beaver. The rodent is known to help restore drought-stricken areas of California by restoring wetlands and groundwater basins. The governor is initially requesting more than $3 million in the next few fiscal years to support and maintain a beaver restoration program within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Another CEQA criticism: No consideration of the future

The Bay Area is often associated with two things – the beauty of its natural landscape, and the skyrocketing costs of living in it. Of late those have been seen as being in tension. … As a planning tool, CEQA has myriad uses, but its overarching nature also means that it can be used by just about everyone – which is how its implementation has so often come to pit environmentalists against developers … Environmentalists have long wanted to add Area 4 to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge as upland migration space – to preserve room for wetlands to move inland as sea levels rise on the Bay shoreline. 

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramentok

California budget would turn Modesto-area park into state park

California is hoping to get a new state park. The site, now known as the Dos Rios Reserve, is just a 20-minute drive from Modesto and may be open to the public by next year if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget is approved. The site is where two rivers, Tuolumne and San Joaquin, meet.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta lies at the confluence of two of the state’s largest rivers. Forty percent of California’s runoff flows into the Delta, which—together with the San Francisco Bay—forms one of the West Coast’s largest estuaries. The Delta watershed supplies water to roughly 30 million residents and more than 6 million acres of farmland. Water exported from the Delta goes to the Bay Area, the southern San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, and Southern California (first figure). 

Aquafornia news Pasadena Star News

LA County unveils final LA River Master Plan

Los Angeles County on Tuesday, May 17 unveiled its final Los Angeles River Master Plan, which the county’s Board of Supervisors will consider for adoption on June 14. The plan is aimed at improving water quality, increasing wildlife habitat and biodiversity and creating equitable access to parks. Among its specific goals are: Creating 51 miles of connected open space along the entire river; Building support facilities along the river; … increasing habitat and ecosystem function along the river corridor and using it as a living laboratory … 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Why salmon and rice go so well together

The rice farmer John Brennan … [is] collaborating with the scientist Jacob Katz to turn a piece of the Sacramento Valley, specifically in the Yolo Bypass, into a floodplain that can be home to baby Chinook salmon during the winter months, as they make their way down the river system to the Pacific. Their experiment, aptly named the Nigiri Project (in reference to the beds of seasoned sushi rice draped in little blankets of raw fish), involves flooding Brennan’s rice fields once the grain has been harvested so that the depleted stalks can decompose in the water, thereby making those nutrients available to bugs and plankton, which then serve as food for schools of growing salmon. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Commentary: Four strategies for managing California’s crucial watershed

Conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed are changing as droughts become warmer and more intense. But as our new study highlights, California is not doing a good job of tracking these changes. That’s making it even tougher to manage the water that is available for the benefit of the state’s communities, economy and environment.
-Written by Ellen Hanak, director of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, and Greg Gartrell, an independent consulting engineer and an adjunct fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

California getting new state park for first time in 13 years

California will acquire a sprawling former farm property in the San Joaquin Valley and create a new state park for the first time in 13 years. The park is planned for Dos Rios Ranch, where the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers meet southwest of Modesto.

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Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

Endangered fish and waterfowl find refuge at the Klamath Basin’s Lakeside Farms

On a cool day in late April, a small crowd gathers around a truck-mounted water tank at Lakeside Farms, on the southeastern shore of Upper Klamath Lake…. All eyes are focused on the tank’s outlet, where U.S. Fish and Wildlife Science fish biologist Jane Spangler stands poised with a net. Her colleague, science coordinator Christie Nichols, opens the valve. Water gushes out; within seconds, a stream of tiny fish pours into the net…. Nichols and Spangler are here to stock the pond with over 1,000 young C’waam and Koptu — Lost River and shortnose suckers, two endangered species that inhabit Upper Klamath Lake and that are at the heart of the area’s water conflicts. It’s the first time that hatchery-raised suckers have been released on private land.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

Opinion: High time for SCOTUS to clarify what constitutes ‘waters of the United States’

The 1972 Clean Water Act established federal authority over the “waters of the United States.” Congress did not offer further explanation of what was covered under that term, but the two federal agencies given authority by the Clean Water Act asserted broad power. The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers required farmers, homeowners, commercial and industrial concerns and developers to obtain permits before digging a ditch for water run-off, shoring up existing erosion protection structures, or draining swampy land.
-Written by columnist Tom Campbell. 

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

California to open first new state park in 13 years

At a scenic spot where two rivers meet amid sprawling almond orchards and ranchlands between San Jose and Modesto, California’s state park system is about to get bigger. On Friday, as part of his revised May budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled to announce that the state is acquiring 2,100 acres near the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers to become a new state park — an area rich with wildlife and brimming with possibilities to reduce flood risk and restore some of California’s lost natural heritage.

Aquafornia news Valley Water News

Blog: A groundbreaking effort to protect the San Francisco Bay from sea-level rise

Sea levels in San Francisco Bay have risen nearly 8 inches in the last 100 years and continue to rise. The sea level in this area could rise as much as 3 feet over the next 50 years, and this project will help protect future generations. In December 2021, Valley Water and its partners broke ground on the first portion of the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Phase 1 Project. … Once completed, this project will help reduce coastal flood risk for about 5,500 residents, commuters and businesses within the vicinity of Alviso and North San José.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s new plan for carbon neutrality will make our lives radically different

More organic farming. Less driving. No more natural gas in new buildings. Electric off-road vehicles. For the first time in five years, California regulators have released an ambitious plan for tackling climate change. … Among the methods: encouraging Californians to eat plant- or cell-based products instead of meat. Doubling the amount of acres of cropland that are certified organic. … Restoring an immense amount of acreage in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — 130,000 acres under one scenario. For context, a state-funded project in the works that will convert 1,200 acres will have taken 20 years and $63 million when it’s complete.

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Aquafornia news Law Street Media

Blog: Orange County Coastkeeper sues owner of metal finishing facility under Clean Water Act

On Thursday, the Orange County Coastkeeper filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Hixson Metal Finishing, FPC Management, LLC and Reid Washbon alleging violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Clean Water Act.  According to the complaint, the Orange County Coastkeeper is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection and defense of the environment, wildlife and natural resources of Orange County. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Five “f”unctions of the Central Valley floodplain

The Yolo Bypass is one of two large flood bypasses in California’s Central Valley that are examples of multi-benefit floodplain projects (Figure 1; Serra-Llobet et al., 2022). Originally constructed in the early 20th century for flood control, up to 75% of the Sacramento River’s flood flow can be diverted through a system of weirs into the Yolo Bypass and away from nearby communities (Figure 2; Salcido, 2012; Sommer et al., 2001). During the dry season, floodplain soils in the bypass support farming of seasonal crops (mostly rice). Today, the bypass is also widely recognized for its ecological benefits.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

New state bill could require ‘blue carbon’ to offset coastal development

Public developments on the California coast would be required to capture carbon in wetlands or other natural systems under an Assembly bill that calls for projects to add “blue carbon” measures to their mitigation plans.  Blue carbon refers to coastal habitat such as wetlands, marshes, kelp forests and eelgrass beds that capture and store carbon in soil, plant matter and the sea floor.  AB 2593, authored by Assemblymember Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, would require projects on public lands to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions by building or contributing to blue carbon projects.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: Expand and restore Bay wetlands to fight climate change

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the world’s scientific community leaves no doubt that we must take urgent action on climate change while we still have a chance to prevent the most destructive impacts to the globe’s communities and ecosystems. This report must spur every one of us to look at actions we can take in our region to rapidly reduce emissions and prepare our communities to adapt. … One of the most effective nature-based solutions is the expansion and restoration of coastal wetlands.
-Written by Carin High, co-chair of the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge; and Arthur Feinstein, vice-chair of the Sierra Club California Conservation Committee and Chair of the Sierra Club’s Bay ALIVE! Campaign. 

Aquafornia news The New Yorker

Can sustainable suburbs save southern California?

The [Tejon Ranch] company’s proposals promise a reprieve from California’s existential crisis about its way of life, suggesting that the environmental consequences of the state’s notorious sprawl can be reformed with rooftop solar panels, induction cooktops, electric cars, and careful bookkeeping. … During the years of litigation surrounding FivePoint Valencia, environmentalists scored a few rare wins. The development had to reduce its footprint to protect the Santa Clara River’s floodplain. It had to conserve land to protect the unarmored threespine stickleback—an endangered fish that lives in the river—and the San Fernando Valley spineflower, a rare plant. 

Aquafornia news The Revelator

Author interview: Why we need slow solutions to solve our water problems

What does Slow Water mean? In our attempt to control water we’re often trying to eradicate the slow phases and move it a lot more quickly. We’re putting up levees so that it won’t settle on floodplains. We’re filling in wetlands so that we can build or farm on top of them. We’re cutting down mountain forests that act as water towers, generating water and releasing it slowly. In all of the cases I looked at, the water detectives were trying to give water access to its slow phases again, whether that meant restoring or protecting wetlands, or reclaiming floodplains, or protecting wet meadows, or in a city, creating something like bioswales.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Researchers look at how biofilters can protect waterways

Onja Davidson Raoelison, a doctoral candidate in environmental engineering at UCLA, has been working to keep waterways safe. Her research and studies focus on green infrastructure and how wildfires impact water systems…. Raoelison has been looking at how biofilters can protect water from debris and toxic pollutants such as heavy metals.

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: 5 takeaways on California 30×30 report: land and freshwater

The state of California has released the final version of its Pathways to 30×30 report. Here are five things to know about the terrestrial conservation elements of this landmark effort: 1. Freshwater Conservation  The Pathways document is explicit about the critical need to expand protection of California’s rivers, streams, wetlands, and other freshwater resources … 

Aquafornia news University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Analysis: The Salton Sea – An introduction to an evolving system and the role of science

The Salton Sea, located in Southern California, is a saline terminal lake that has had many identities over the past century or so. Since its reincarnation in 1905 due to lower Colorado River flooding that partially refilled the Salton Sink, it has been California’s largest lake by surface area, covering approximately 350 square miles…. Yet with nearly 90% of its inflow comprised of agricultural drainage waters from the approximately 500,000 acres of irrigated farmland in the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), and exposure to an extremely arid climate that results in excessive evaporation … the Sea’s natural attractions have faded as the lake has become more polluted and nearly twice as saline as the ocean….

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: Untapped beauty in California’s Central Valley

Over the past two centuries, 95% of the Central Valley’s wetlands have been lost to development, landscaped out of existence to satisfy the hunger of an urbanizing, growing nation. But that’s only part of the picture. California’s Central Valley extends far beyond what you can see from the freeways bisecting the belly of the state to connect the Redding to the Bay Area to Los Angeles. The region once boasted one of the largest and most biologically diverse wetlands on earth nourished by the mighty Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers …

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Drought helped dry up a lake in Chile. Will it happen to the Great Salt Lake?

At its height, Lake Aculeo — 5,810 miles from the Great Salt Lake and in South America’s Chile — attracted people from nearby Santiago and the surrounding area to enjoy sailing, boating and swimming in its fresh waters that occupied a surface area four times the size of New York City’s Central Park. All that is gone. In fact, like the Great Salt Lake’s surface that has been reduced by more than half and its volume diminished by 64% as of 2019, Lake Aculeo began to shrink during a drought. In May 2018, Lake Aculeo dried up completely.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Spotlight

Silicon Valley environmentalists want Caltrans to clean up trash

Environmentalists are concerned Caltrans isn’t doing enough to keep trash from washing off its properties into the San Francisco Bay. The state transportation department has been under a cease and desist order since 2019 requiring it to reduce trash over the next seven years. The order covers more than 8,000 acres of its property in the Bay Area, including the South Bay. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the order following widespread community outrage about Caltrans failing to pick up trash polluting local waterways.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California gives rivers more room to flow to stem flood risk

Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California’s farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres (1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state’s Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. 

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

A vast California lake is set to run dry. Scientists are scrambling to save its endangered fish

Entering a third year of drought, the once-vast Tule Lake, a vestige of the area’s volcanic past and today a federally protected wetland, is shriveling up. Its floor is mostly cracked mud and tumbleweed. By summer, the lake is expected to run completely dry, a historic first for the region’s signature landmark and the latest chapter in a broader, escalating water war.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

County exploring ways to use San Diego’s land to fight climate change

With high biodiversity and rich farmland, San Diego County is exploring ways to put the region’s land to use to cut carbon emissions. In an online public workshop Thursday, county officials explained ways to expand the use of wetlands, marshes, forests and agricultural lands to capture and store carbon through the county’s Regional Decarbonization Framework. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

San Francisco Bay restoration bolstered by $53 million federal influx

Despite being the largest estuary on the West Coast and supporting both a highly diverse ecosystem and a multi-billion dollar economy, the San Francisco Bay Estuary was not getting its fair share of federal funding for restoration, according to local lawmakers and environmental organizations. That changed this year after Congress and President Joe Biden approved more than $50 million in funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for projects to restore lost wetlands, improve water quality, address pollution and bolster sea-level rise defenses throughout San Francisco Bay.

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.

Publication

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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

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

Wetlands

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.