Exciting News on Infrastructure Cause for Optimism

  • by Pamela Tobin
  • Jun 23, 2023
  • Voices on Water

Advancing infrastructure is at the heart of all we do at ACWA. Most of our critical issues tie back to this core issue, especially when it comes to building climate resilience and streamlining the permitting process. That’s why it was so exciting — and inspiring — to learn more about Sites Reservoir during our June 1 Region 2 event hosted by the Sites Project Authority.

Highlighting infrastructure projects like Sites is why I spearheaded the creation of ACWA’s Quench California campaign. This award-winning statewide public education campaign is half-way through a second year of connecting people online with why water infrastructure is such a critical need for today and the next generation. It also features a library of water projects in every corner of the state, including Sites, offering local examples of what these projects look like, how they benefit communities and why they provide a foundation for adapting to climate change.

I encourage everyone within the ACWA community to check out QuenchCA and consider supporting it. Paid partnerships with QuenchCA offer a great way to get involved by showcasing your agency’s most important capital projects with the robust messaging of the campaign for members of your community. You can learn more at

At the same time, region events are the ideal way to see projects, learn about innovation and enjoy camaraderie with fellow ACWA community members from across the state. The Region 2 event was a perfect example of this, with its 60 participants including ACWA member agency representatives from virtually every corner of our state. We’re just getting started this year, so there are plenty of opportunities left to experience an ACWA region event by keeping an eye on www.acwa.com/events.

Like other region events, the June 1 program and tour offered a fascinating look behind the scenes at one of the most important water infrastructure projects under development today. With Sites Reservoir, ACWA members are leading the way to deliver quite possibly the most innovative surface water storage project ever contemplated in California that will capture flood flows from the Sacramento River in off-stream storage for the benefit of people and the environment. Water diverted and stored in Sites during atmospheric river events will help preserve colder water stored in Lake Shasta for the benefit of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, all while providing critically important new water supplies for the people of California.  

This project would not be possible without the dedication and leadership of local water agencies across the state.  Together with state and federal partners and a sincere commitment to include and benefit the local community, ACWA members are driving this vitally important project forward to construction.

The goal now is to have Sites operational in 2033, when it would start storing up to 1.5 million acre-feet of excess, high flows from the Sacramento River. This project is so important to our state for many reasons. Of course, it will support the surrounding agricultural community in Northern California. But it will also act as a buffer during dry times for water purveyors up and down our state who have invested in Sites. Moreover, it makes water captured during atmospheric river events available during drought years for the benefit of the fishery, waterfowl, and overall ecosystem.

These are exciting times, and seeing Sites making historic progress is one part of a bigger picture that can see California decisively act on the need for water infrastructure. We have Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently announced infrastructure streamlining package, which proposes commonsense reform measures for regulatory and review processes that can accelerate construction of critical climate-friendly projects, including water infrastructure projects. ACWA strongly supports the Newsom Administration’s leadership in this area. 

At the same time, ACWA advocacy is also supporting development of a potential water bond within the Legislature that could appear on the 2024 ballot. ACWA’s state infrastructure priorities cover a wide range of project types being pursued by our member agencies, including recycled water, groundwater recharge and storage, flood protection, dam safety, conveyance, storage, safe drinking water, regional watershed resilience, State Water Project improvements and water conservation.

We could be in for a historic few years, and I’m optimistic that the momentum is with us on getting infrastructure projects off the books and into existence.

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