Making good decisions – Getting results

This project proposes, as its primary project action, to acquire parcels comprising a large “island” within the flood channel and restore the property to riparian condition through natural and assisted processes.

Making good decisions – Getting results

During the recent drought, Californians were called to reevaluate Electronic Billboardhow we use, manage, and share water to get through the crisis. Farmers received only small fractions of the surface water they needed to grow food, and strident mandatory cuts were imposed on our cities, forcing us all to ask how to get the most bang for our water buck.

With a renewed focus on improving water use efficiency, communities across the state have been investigating and deploying advancements to ensure we meet our goals of doing more with less.

Farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of their fields, installed billions of dollars worth of water-conserving technology and water measurement equipment, while developing sophisticated regional management plans and partnerships that help ensure farm water is managed and moved efficiently. Urban communities have invested millions in the latest high-tech water-saving technologies, landscaping upgrades, and infrastructure improvements to help modernize California’s water system, while reducing use . Farms and cities are united in their efforts to ensure that water used isn’t water wasted.

Out-of-date scientific theory fails to ensure success

Today the State is proposing a plan to help salmon using out-of-date, 20th century
scientific theory that doesn’t best consider the biological needs of the river ecosystems. They are using an approach which, when tested over the years, has repeatedly failed to improve the waterways and those that depend on them.

Fishery, habitat, and water experts agree that the bureaucrats are not using the best science to meet the needs of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River estuary and its salmon population.

Science that gets results – Functional Flows

“Functional flows” is an approach to water management that considersbay delta estuary the full complex needs of a waterway, the timing of those needs, and the needs and timings of the organisms dependent on the environment created by those relationships. This approach helps to ensure that water dedicated to help improve ecosystems and fish species achieves that goal.

Learn more about Functional Flows, by clicking here.


A functional flow is a component of the hydrograph that provides a distinct geomorphic or ecological function. These functions may include geomorphic processes, ecological processes, or biogeochemical processes. Such processes in rivers and associated biotic interactions operate in three dimensions, and are intimately tied to the timing, duration, and frequency of natural flows.  Thus functional flows must attempt to reflect the natural patterns of flow variability.

Yarnell, SM, AA Whipple, E Beller, C Dahm, C Enright, P Goodwin, G Petts, JH Viers. 2014. Functional Flows in Modified Riverscapes: Hydrographs, Habitats and Opportunities. Poster session at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA. EP41C-06

State Water Resources Control Board could cost California’s agricultural economy $4.5 billion

Farmers throughout the Central Valley have been working hard and assuming huge personal risks in support of the Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan to protect salmon and still provide water to their farms.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of water is being loaned to the United States Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service, water districts, communities and individual farmers to stretch every drop available to protect California’s protected salmon and valued agriculture,” said Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“Water was purchased or conserved by farmers in prior years and currently resides as an emergency supply in San Luis Reservoir,” he explained. “It is this water targeted for the ‘loan’ program and any decision by the State Water Resources Control Board that would interfere with the complex set of agreements struck since mid-May could cost the agricultural industry as much as $4.5 billion and bankrupt thousands of farmers.”

In a show of cooperation among a diverse set of irrigation and water districts, the water would be “loaned” to the Bureau of Reclamation to meet senior water supply demands in the San Joaquin Valley. In exchange, Reclamation would commit to pay back that water out of supplies stored in Lake Shasta as soon as temperature goals for winter run Chinook salmon are met.

The water is being “loaned” to fulfill multiple water supply and environmental objectives, which include the provision of a small amount of summer water supply for agriculture south of the Delta, refuge management for numerous listed terrestrial species like the Giant Garter Snake, and temperature management goals by Reclamation and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Farmers involved in the “loan” program own land on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley rice farmers who fallowed land this year to make supplies available for transfers and Friant-area farmers seeking to augment a zero supply for the second year in a row.

“The State Water Resources Control Board should facilitate this complex and unprecedented collaboration and allow Reclamation to release water as soon as possible to pay back what has been borrowed to protect salmon,” Wade added.

Water agencies in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys provided estimates to Reclamation indicating the total cost of lost water and farm production if the water board does not approve the payback provision would be in the range of $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion and an additional 485,000 acres of farmland fallowing.

SWRCB staff rejects urgent request for water

SWRCB staff rejects urgent request for water

Despite concurrence among five State and federal agencies, a single State employee reversed a plan that would have delivered desperately needed water to most of drought-parched California. The decision is currently costing California water users about 2,000 acre-feet of water per day.

SWRCB Executive Director Tom Howard has placed himself above the experts at five State and federal water and fishery agencies.

A decision yesterday afternoon by State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director Tom Howard is already causing a loss of precious water supplies to two-thirds of California’s population and seven of the top 10 agricultural producing counties. Howard rejected a plan by the State Department of Water Resources and United States Bureau of Reclamation that would have allowed limited increases in export pumping under certain flow conditions in the Delta. The State Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service all agreed that the additional pumping did not pose an unreasonable risk to threatened or endangered salmon and Delta smelt.

Increased water called “tradeoffs”

In his rejection Howard said, “…there is not currently adequate information to indicate that this export level is reasonable given the current status of species and their distribution in the Delta…” He further stated that, “…water supply tradeoffs are not clear given the unknown water contract allocations that will occur this year.”

Translated: Not interested in helping Californians south of Delta, whether they be farmers or urban water users because State and federal agencies have not made their full allocation announcements yet. Or, since the projects might get more water allocated in the future, I can prevent them from getting any more now and it will all work out.

More accurately, Mr. Howard is playing chicken with water supplies for a south of Delta agricultural sector that verges on being a grotesque play on the cartoon character Wimpy: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for the water I take from you today.”

Alas, under the current weather pattern California is suffering under, Tuesday may never come.

State and federal fishery agencies approved of increased pumping

DWR and USBR agreed on a water supply plan for the conditions that exist right now. The water supply for the remainder of the year is contingent on weather, which is uncertain at the very least. Ultimately pumping reductions under this order will affect south of Delta wildlife refuges, urban users, including many disadvantaged communities, and farmers and could be about 2,000 acre-feet of lost water per day.

It is outrageous that one person with no special expertise in science or project operations can ignore the collective decision of FIVE State and federal agencies that have responsibilities for managing ecosystem resources.

Potential loss of $38 million in water supply

Howard said the issue would be open for discussion at the SWRCB’s workshop on February 18, which is 14 days from now. Depending on the weather, about 38,000 acre-feet, or $38 million worth of water could be lost forever.

What will 38,000 acre-feet of water grow? Any of the following: (click to enlarge)