California Water Series: Sacramento Valley Working Together Pays Off


Collaborative partnerships under way in the Sacramento Valley are helping to meet future needs for water while protecting the environment. Through a mix of short- and long-term projects and programs, local agencies are creating new water supplies, improving water quality and enhancing habitat for salmon and other species.

This segment of “California’s Water” focuses on two major cooperative efforts in the Sacramento Valley. Viewers will get a look at fish passage improvements, groundwater management, water use efficiency programs and other projects under way in both the metropolitan Sacramento area and the agricultural region to the north.

Background on the Issue

The Sacramento Valley is a unique tapestry of farms, rivers, and many growing communities. Nestled between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range, the valley is traversed by two of the state’s most important rivers and is home to numerous managed wetlands and wildlife areas. Its waterways provide important habitat for waterfowl and spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead trout, while its cities and rural communities provide an important job base – including the hub of state government.

Over the past decade, local agencies and water users have formed partnerships to address mutual needs for a reliable water supply and a healthy environment. These collaborative planning efforts are yielding results and represent the kind of regional, multi-purpose programs that will be critical to California’s future.

In the northern part of the valley, water users have developed an integrated water management program that includes facilities such as fish screens, groundwater management, flood protection, watershed management, water use efficiency and water transfers and exchanges. The program stems from a landmark agreement reached in 2002 as an alternative to litigation and adversarial water rights proceedings.

Partnerships forged as part of the program have ushered in a new approach to water management in the region and turned potential conflicts into a win-win. As a result, investments are being made in key programs and infrastructure that will ensure more reliable water supplies for the Sacramento Valley, enhanced habitat for salmon and other species, and improved water quality and water supply flexibility for other regions of the state.

Meanwhile in the Sacramento metropolitan area, water managers are joining forces on programs and projects that will take regional water management to new levels. Local water agencies have adopted an integrated water management plan for the lower American River basin that will boost water supply reliability for the growing region, improve water quality, increase flood control and protect the lower American River and species such as salmon that rely on it. The lower American River is the only nationally designated wild and scenic river in the country that runs through a major metropolitan area.

The plan includes an array of projects to support a regional conjunctive use program and promote water recycling, water use efficiency and other strategies to improve local water supply reliability. It is an outgrowth of the historic Sacramento Water Forum Agreement, which capped seven years of negotiations and created a unique partnership aimed at meeting the region’s needs for water while protecting environmental values of the lower American River.

The two Sacramento Valley efforts are case studies in how local agencies are working across jurisdictional lines to find new and creative ways to protect water supplies for people and the environment.