Water agencies throughout the Sacramento Valley have been leaders in progressive water management and environmental stewardship—managing water for farms, birds and fish. Western Canal Water District just south of Chico was recently featured in the ACWA News with a detailed story on how Western Canal has pursued an ethic of environmental stewardship. Through its leadership and water management actions over the past decade, Western Canal provides high quality water for ricelands and other managed wetlands that serve as essential Pacific Flyway habitat.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has a new webpage on North of Delta Off-stream Storage (Sites Reservoir) that outlines the benefits Sites Reservoir would provide in a drought year like we experienced in 2014. This off-stream regulating reservoir also has significant compounding value when integrated with other facilities. Sites would have increased the total Sacramento Valley storage upstream of the Delta storage (including Shasta, Oroville and Folsom) by 900,000 acre-feet, or a 27 percent increase last year. Importantly, the cold water storage in Lake Shasta would have increased by 240,000 acre-feet, which would benefit salmon spawning in the upper Sacramento River. This 900,000 acre-feet of water could be used for multiple purposes: fish, farms, birds, cities, recreation and to help maintain salinity levels in the Delta. To learn more, visit: Department of Water Resources – The Drought and Sites Reservoir.
The 2015 water year has been a roller coaster ride, with a very dry January tucked in between big storms in December and early February in Northern California. The hydrologic cycle in California has always been unpredictable, with widely fluctuating wet years and dry years, while average years only exist as part of a statistical analysis on paper. This year is no different, except that California is in the midst of a very dry decade and the public is now focused and some say obsessed with weather and the various forecasts. Now is a good time to take stock of this dynamic and remind ourselves that we need to prepare, but not over-react.
During dry years, every drop counts. In the Sacramento Valley, water resources managers are working closely with various conservation partners on a broad salmon recovery program. As part of this effort, the Northern California Water Association joined the Golden Gate Salmon Association earlier this week in requesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service schedule the release of 173,000 winter-run chinook salmon to benefit from the forecasted storm later this week. The storm will bring both flows and turbid water, particularly from tributaries to the Sacramento River, which increases the likelihood that the young salmon will be able to survive and successfully migrate to the ocean. These partnerships and real time management are essential during dry years to help with salmon recovery.