Regional Planning: Meeting Northern California Water Needs into the Future

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The Sacramento Valley Hydrologic Region is the northern part of the Great Central Valley. Sacramento Valley water resources managers are committed to advance the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the Sacramento Valley by enhancing and preserving its water rights, supplies, and water quality for the rich mosaic of farmlands, cities and rural communities, refuges and managed wetlands, and meandering rivers that support fisheries and wildlife. Programs and projects implemented by Sacramento Valley water resources managers assist in the implementation of “the policy of the State of California… to reduce reliance on the Delta in meeting California’s future water supply needs through a statewide strategy of investing in improved regional water supplies, conservation and water use efficiency. Each region that depends on water from the Delta watershed shall improve its regional self-reliance for water through investment in water use efficiency, water recycling, advanced water technologies, local and regional water supply projects, and improved regional coordination of local and regional water supply efforts.” (Water Code §85021.) To carry out this state policy and to assure regional sustainability in the Sacramento Valley, there are various efforts that have been initiated and are now underway for regional water resources planning in the Sacramento Valley.

To fully appreciate the value of integrated regional planning in Northern California, it is important to consider the region in the proper hydrologic context. Under natural conditions, water in the Sacramento River and its various tributaries and watersheds flows south past the Capitol to the San Francisco Bay-Delta and then to the ocean. Since the late 1800s, leaders throughout the Sacramento Valley secured a variety of water rights and contracts and invested significant financial and personal capital so that water supplies can either be diverted or stored for use in Northern California. These water rights and supplies are the socio-economic foundation for Northern California and serve the various environmental values in the region. Regional planning builds upon these water rights and calls on various strategies for water resources managers to actively manage these supplies so that water is available for all needs in Northern California–both now and into the future.

Central to regional planning are the major efforts underway to improve and enhance water supplies, water quality and the environment for the area-of-origin in Northern California. Water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley serve water for:

  • family farms and ranches, which in addition to socio-economic benefits, provide open space and habitat for waterfowl, geese and waterbirds along the Pacific Flyway;
  • high quality drinking water for citizens throughout the region;
  • six National Wildlife Refuges in the Sacramento Valley and over 50 state wildlife areas and numerous privately managed wetlands in the Valley. This water supports important habitat for the annual migration of waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway as well as providing winter habitat for shorebirds and other resident species;
  • fish enhancement projects to improve migratory corridors and habitat for salmonids and other fish species.

Water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley recognize and take very seriously the tremendous responsibility to assure reliable and affordable water supplies for the region. Most importantly, they are committed to the economic, environmental and social well-being of the region. As a result, NCWA and water resources managers are aggressively working and partnering with landowners and local governments throughout the region and with various environmental organizations to assure the efficient use of water and to explore new ways to provide water and enhance habitat for the Pacific Flyway and fisheries.

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