Spotlight March 2020 – Glenn-Colusa ID

  • by Katherine Causland
  • Mar 20, 2020
  • Newsletters

GCID is a leader in conservation, partnering with local, state and federal agencies to improve and create habitat. Last year, GCID helped re-open a side channel on the Sacramento River that provides protection for juvenile salmon on their journey to the ocean.

Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District Celebrates Centennial

February marked the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID), the largest irrigation water district in the Sacramento Valley and one of ACWA’s oldest members.

Based in Willows, GCID also holds one of the earliest and largest water rights on the Sacramento River. Those water rights started when Will S. Green posted a filing for the water rights on a tree in 1883. 

GCID was organized in 1920 after several private companies failed financially, and a group of landowners reorganized and refinanced the irrigation district, retaining claim to Green’s historic water rights. The following year, GCID joined what would later become ACWA, the Irrigation District Association.

The district immediately faced daunting challenges. A disastrous rice crop failure in 1920 and 1921 nearly destroyed GCID at its inception. The Great Depression took a further toll, making it necessary for the district to refinance during the 1930s. Additionally, the United States government purchased lands within GCID during this period, which would later become three federal refuges totaling approximately 21,000 acres. But from that starting point, GCID would eventually build a reputation for active involvement in advancing water management practices, conservation and habitat enhancement. 

The superstructure of a pumping plant under construction during the early 1900s before the creation of GCID. The district was formed in 1920 and assumed control of water rights established in 1883 by Will S. Green, one of California’s pioneering irrigators.

GCID has a deep commitment to sustainable practices – both in managing the water supply, as well as in preserving and protecting the region’s environment, fish and wildlife. It has completed numerous projects to ensure minimal impact of water diversion on fish and wildlife, as well as deliver water to maintain critical wildlife habitat. 

Winter water supplied by GCID to thousands of acres of rice land provides valuable habitat for migrating waterfowl during the winter months. GCID has participated in numerous fish habitat restoration projects in the Sacramento River. In 2019 alone, GCID collaborated with local, state and federal agencies on two habitat projects. One restored spawning habitat on the Sacramento River going through Redding, and a second further downstream restored a side channel that provided valuable protection for juvenile salmonids on their migration to the ocean. The latter project proved successful within a week.

Today, the ACWA Region 2 member’s boundaries cover approximately 175,000 acres, of which about 140,000 are farmed. There are 1,076 landowners in the district and an additional 200 tenant water users. Additionally, GCID services 1,200 acres of private habitat land in addition to the federal refuge land. 

As part of the district’s centennial celebration, GCID has launched an Instagram page where it will showcase notable historical facts and photos throughout 2020. These historical facts and photos will also appear on the GCID’s Facebook page. Links to both social media sites are at


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