California Headwaters Returning to Health with ACWA Member Support

  • by Dave Eggerton
  • Oct 18, 2019
  • Voices on Water

ACWA member leadership takes many forms in securing a sustainable water future, and one of the most exciting is within the quiet shadows between pines in parts of the Sierra Nevada. It’s open space, and in some cases a sight unseen for generations. However, the hard work behind restoring the health of this forest will make generational impacts.

Protecting water at its source depends on healthy headwaters and watersheds, one of ACWA’s  guiding priorities. But more frequent and severe catastrophic wildfires have left behind barren hillsides, with rainstorms washing ash and debris into creeks and rivers. It turns the fires into double hits though degraded water quality that requires more intensive treatment. That’s not to mention an often irretrievable forest environment already under stress through climate change. To gain some perspective on headwaters health, I urge you to visit and download for free filmmaker and producer Jim Thebaut’s latest documentary, Beyond the Brink: California’s Watershed. You can also learn more about the documentary on page 5.

By now, everyone recognizes one of the ironies behind the recent and unimaginably horrific fires: They stem from decades of well-intentioned fire suppression that extinguished the natural role of fire within the forest ecosystem, inviting years of overgrown underbrush ready to go off like a bomb with a single spark. 

But over the last few years, a number of ACWA member agencies have joined forces with a healthy variety of stakeholders to return the forest to its original state, as the pioneers found it when they could drive wagons between the trees. There was that much space, and now those more natural conditions are returning acre by acre in places such as the watersheds supporting the Yuba and American rivers, and ultimately the Sacramento River. It’s hard work on a seemingly impossible scale, but it is progressing through work crews, careful use of prescribed fire and heavy equipment such as masticators. 

Equally exciting for members of the ACWA community, where collaboration is the word of almost every day, is the size and scope of the stakeholder partnerships. The members of these partnerships that include ACWA member agencies can range from the U.S. Forest Service to conservation groups and NGOs willing to find common ground with water agencies to achieve a greater good.  For example, ACWA is a member of the California Forest Watershed Alliance (CAFWA). This alliance of diverse interests, including organizations that represent water, environment, local government, timber, and agricultural interests is dedicated to finding a solution to California’s forest-health and fire-risk issues.  

More details about ACWA member agency activity behind forest restoration is the subject of this edition’s Spotlight feature on pages 10 and 11. 

ACWA and every member plays a role in restoring the health of our headwaters, if not directly then through support for our state and federal advocacy, where there is so much at stake. ACWA advocated for and is pleased by last year’s comprehensive fire funding fix which should help ensure that federal agencies have sufficient funding to fight fires and implement fire prevention programs. As I write, Dave Reynolds and his team at ACWA East continue outreach on west wide legislation that could potentially devote millions in federal monies toward drought resiliency work, which includes watershed health. More pending legislation would introduce more flexibility into the permitting process, allowing forest restoration projects to move more easily from planning to implementation. 

Back here in Sacramento, headwaters health also played a key role in our recommendations delivered to the Newsom Administration regarding its Water Resilience Portfolio. Our recommendations include a review of state agency policies to identify regulatory obstacles. ACWA is also recommending that one public member of the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection possess water resources management experience when appointed.

Also, ACWA’s Headwaters Task Force is completing an update of our 2015 Headwaters Framework Policy Principles as well as ACWA’s Recommended Actions. We will be presenting that update to the Board in November and making it available online.

Once again, ACWA members have a lot to be proud of by helping lead the way in caring for watershed health. These at-risk landscapes will remain a central concern the further we advance through the 21st Century, and ACWA will play a leading role in restoring their health.

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Webinar: Communicating During a Crisis

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Coalition Letter: Coronavirus Response Act; Water Sector Sick Leave

To: Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy Subject: We, the nation’s public water sector, write to alert […]

Comment Letter: ACWA Comments on State Wetland Definition

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Draft Guidance for the State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredge […]

Webinar: Learn How to Apply for the $830M SGIP Funds

ACWA hosted a webinar on March 11 to discuss the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which has $830 million in funding […]

Federal Regulatory Issues Chart

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment letter: ACWA Comments on De-Energization

Agency: California Public Utilities Commission Subject: Association of California Water Agencies Comments on Proposed Additional Modified De-Energization Guidelines and Files […]

Priority Issues Bulletin

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Recommendations for Resilient Headwaters

ACWA’s headwater documents showcase the importance of improved headwaters management. Benefits include increased water yield and quality, enhanced natural features […]

Improved Management of California’s Headwaters

  Improved Management of California’s Headwaters outlines ACWA’s updated Headwaters Policy Principles, which were adopted by the ACWA Board of […]

Comment letter: ACWA Comments on Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

To: Nancy Vogel, Director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program Subject: Association of California Water Agencies’ Comments regarding the Draft […]

Comment Letter: ACWA Joint Comments on Draft Policy for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Draft Policy for Developing the Fund Expenditure Plan for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water […]

ACWA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan

ACWA’s five-year strategic plan will afford the association the benefit of a broader forecast of resources, as well as the […]

Comment Letter: ACWA Comments on Urban Water Conservation Reporting

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Proposed Urban Water Conservation Reporting Regulations Description: ACWA provided public comment on the proposed urban […]

Federal Legislative Matrix

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment Letter: ACWA Comments on Public Health Goals for PFAS

Agency: Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Subject: Public Health Goals for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate Description: ACWA provided public comment […]

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
Virtual Water Surveys Available For PWD Customers

PALMDALE – Palmdale Water District (PWD) customers can now receive web-based assistance from a Water-Use Efficiency Specialist to ensure they […]

Yuba Water Agency makes investment in water education center, curriculum for area schools

In its first major move toward building a water education center and developing unique lessons to enhance Yuba County schools, […]

Governor Prohibits Water Shutoffs by Urban and Community Water Systems

In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order on April 2 that suspends the authority […]

Illustrating the Power of Collaboration to Restore Salmon Runs

One of a number of habitat restoration success stories includes ongoing collaborative work to bring back the salmon population on […]

ACWA Webinar Will Highlight Agency Operations During COVID-19 Crisis

ACWA will host an informational webinar on April 9 titled, “COVID-19 Response: Rising to Meet New Challenges,” to help member […]

Valley Water Employing Virtual Tours to Continue Public Outreach

Valley Water is now offering holistic virtual tours of its water infrastructure where Santa Clara County residents can discover how […]

Help shape the future, Western reminds you to be counted during the 2020 Census

RIVERSIDE – Western Municipal Water District (Western) reminds its customers to participate in the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census is […]

Western Municipal Water District declares local state of emergency

RIVERSIDE – The Western Municipal Water District (Western) Board of Directors on Wednesday, April 1, adopted Resolution 3112 declaring a […]

Don’t get fooled by water quality and customer information scams, Western warns

RIVERSIDE – Western Municipal Water District (Western) is urging customers to beware of calls, emails or visits from scammers claiming […]

TUD Continues Providing Essential Services During COVID-19

Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD or District) continues to respond 24/7 to emergencies and provide essential water and wastewater services to […]

Elk Grove Water District Water Quality and Supply Amid COVID-19

On March 16, 2020, the Elk Grove Water District (EGWD) announced that it will be implementing Risk Level 3, as […]

Elk Grove Water District Suspends Penalties Fees and Terminations

On March 19, 2020 the Sacramento County Health Officer issued a stay-at-home directive halting all business within the County except […]

Elk Grove Water District Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public

Effective March 17, 2020, the Elk Grove Water District (EGWD) will be temporarily the health and safety of its customers […]

State Issues Permit for Long-Term Operations of the State Water Project

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on Tuesday issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to the Department […]

March Precipitation Not Enough to Offset Dry Winter

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the fourth manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station. […]