News & Operations Blog

Making the Best of the Poor Conditions in this Critically Dry Year

Posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Dear Colleagues.

This is the first in a periodic series of blog posts that discusses the work of the Water Forum and its members to balance the coequal objectives of water supply reliability and environmental stewardship on the Lower American River. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or suggestions.

Making the Best of the Poor Conditions in this Critically Dry Year

By Jessica Law

Severe drought conditions are back in California. Unfortunately, that means the Lower American River is headed into what may be some of the worst summer conditions we’ve seen on the river in recent memory.

I won’t sugarcoat it. Conditions in the river will be bad. However, the Water Forum and our partners are working hard to ensure conditions are as good as they can possibly be, and to minimize harm to fish and habitat.

What to expect in the coming months

PHOTO CREDIT: DWR, Lower American River 2014

As you may have seen on the news, we began this year with a near-normal snowpack. In most years, the snowpack melts and feeds our lakes and rivers. This year, the snowpack disappeared in the span of several weeks, soaking into the dry soil or evaporating—perhaps foreshadowing what may turn out to be the case study for climate change impacts on our water supplies and environment.

Because of the disappearing snowpack and lower storage in Folsom Reservoir from a dry 2020, we can expect to see river flows fall to 550 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Hazel Avenue this summer. That’s barely above the 500 cfs minimum established in the Water Forum’s flow standard, which the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is implementing. For reference, flows right now are around 1,000 cfs. So we have big changes coming.

People often think that river flows are the most important factor for fish survival. But, in fact, temperature is the greatest factor. Low flows mean warm water. This summer, temperatures in the American are 71 degrees on average, which is above the 68-degree maximum target for healthy salmonids. While that won’t kill salmon and steelhead outright, it may cause chronic health problems that could lead to death for some fish.

Addressing the challenges

Since early this year, as the reality of these critically dry conditions emerged, the Water Forum has been working closely with Reclamation and state water managers by providing technical data and recommendations to help inform Folsom operations and statewide water supply decisions.

Our overarching goal is to end 2021 with the best possible conditions in Folsom Reservoir and the Lower American River, in case drought continues next year.

One of the most important steps we’ve taken so far is to work with Reclamation, which manages Folsom Reservoir, to preserve cold water in Folsom Reservoir for the fall Chinook salmon run. This includes setting a storage planning goal of 200,000 acre-feet this fall, ensuring access to stored water for municipal agencies, whose intakes become threatened when water levels drop to 110,000 acre-feet. This shared goal with Reclamation will be challenging to achieve, but I am confident that Reclamation will get there.

Also, Reclamation has agreed to evaluate a bypass of hydropower production and instead release water from the lowest river outlets in the dam, providing access to the coldest stored water during fall months. This will help keep river temperatures as cold as possible for the fall salmon run. We’re aiming for 58-degree water temperatures in fall. Again, that’s above the desired maximum of 56 degrees, but close enough to avoid acute mortality to salmon.

Water Forum members are also taking action. For example, as part of the Water Forum Agreement, water providers are reducing surface water diversions from Folsom Reservoir and the American River. They are shifting to groundwater to the greatest extent possible to reduce reliance on the river and sharing water with communities typically dependent on Folsom Reservoir for their supplies. After 20 years, of sustainable management, our groundwater supplies are stable and ready to serve as a drought buffer.

Water providers through the Regional Water Authority are also asking customers to conserve water by at least 15 percent. Even though water supplies for this year are expected to be OK, conservation is an important element in a dry year like this one. Every drop truly does count, and we need everyone’s help.

We learned a lot from the severe drought of 2014-17. It’s unfortunate we find ourselves back in these conditions again so soon. The upside is that we’ve gotten smarter, there are lots of dedicated people working hard on the problem, and we know what we need to do to get through times like these.

You can find water conservation tips and information about rebates at BeWaterSmart.info.

 

MEDIA STATEMENT: Sacramento Region Supports Governor’s Call for Conservation

Posted on Thursday, July 8th, 2021

Sacramento, Calif.The following statement was issued today by Jessica Law, Executive Director of the Water Forum, and Sean Bigley, Board Chair of the Regional Water Authority, in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order expanding the emergency to nine additional counties, and asking the public to voluntarily conserve 15 percent.

“The Governor’s announcement today underscores the severe drought conditions throughout California and in the Sacramento region.

“Sacramento-area leaders across the region’s major municipalities yesterday issued a news release imploring the public to increase their conservation efforts, and we support the Governor’s call for a voluntary 15 percent reduction.

“We understand that the public has continued to conserve since the last drought, and we applaud those efforts. Now, we are asking residents to do more. Increasing conservation this summer will help the environment of the Lower American River and decrease the potential for water shortages in 2022 if drought conditions persist through this winter.

“There are many easy and quick water-saving actions that can be taken today, such as dialing back sprinklers by two minutes (while continuing to water your trees), making sure sprinklers and drip irrigation run in the morning to minimize evaporation, adding mulch to conserve moisture and fixing household leaks.

“Also, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of the many rebate programs available to help with downsizing or replacing a thirsty lawn with beautiful low-water plants or upgrading to efficient irrigation and fixtures.

“You can find more water-saving tips, information about rebates and landscape watering guidelines at BeWaterSmart.info.”

 

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.

The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 20 water providers serving 2 million people in the greater Sacramento region. Formed in 2001, its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources. Learn more at rwah2o.org.

NEWS RELEASE: Sacramento-Area Leaders Urge Public to Conserve Water

Posted on Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

“Summer Presents the Greatest Opportunity to Make a Difference”

SACRAMENTO—Sacramento-area leaders across the region’s major municipalities—including

Watering guidelines for every water provider are continually updated at https://bewatersmart.info/wateringmap/

the Cities of Sacramento, Roseville and Folsom and the County of Sacramento—are urging the public to increase their conservation efforts as severe drought conditions continue to unfold, impacting the environment of the Lower American River this summer and potentially next year’s water supplies.

The Sacramento region is experiencing the most severe drought of this century. What started as a near-normal snowpack, soaked into the soil or evaporated rather than flowing into lakes, reservoirs and rivers. By May, the snowpack was functionally gone, two months earlier than average, and Folsom Reservoir water levels were 68 feet lower than 2020.

“This drought is different. It has been swift and severe,” said Sacramento City Councilmember Jeff Harris. “Water supplies for people are expected to be OK this year, thanks to the region’s investments in and ability to shift to groundwater and share water among communities. However, it’s critical that we as a region look ahead to 2022 and prepare for continued dry conditions.”

Local water providers are using operational means to address current drought conditions by shifting to using more groundwater and sharing water around the region, options made possible in part by investments made following the last drought. In addition, RWA in May adopted a resolution calling for 10 percent voluntary conservation. Many local water providers have since initiated voluntary conservation measures and increased rebates as an incentive for customers to reduce their water use.

Increasing conservation this summer will help the environment of the Lower American River and decrease the potential for water shortages in 2022 if drought conditions persist.

“Summer presents the greatest opportunity to make a difference, so now is the time to act,” said City of Folsom Mayor Mike Kozlowski. Water use in the Sacramento region peaks in July and August, as residents increase landscape watering with the hot weather. “We are calling on everyone to do their part and conserve water, especially outdoors,” Kozlowski said. “We are confident our community will respond, just as they did during the last drought.”

The City of Sacramento has maintained a two-day-per-week watering guideline even beyond the drought, and other water providers have initiated new rebate programs. Overall water use in the Sacramento region is at least 10 percent lower than pre-drought levels.

“We are proud of the way local residents have continued to use less water since the last drought,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy. “Now, we are asking you to consider how to do more. We know our region will rise to this challenge.”

Several actions that can be taken immediately include:

  • Stress Your Lawn and Save Your Trees. Try reducing lawn watering times by two minutes across the board, but remember to take steps to protect your trees. Lawn can handle less water and eventually recover while trees can be lost forever. You can find tips and videos for efficiently watering trees at BeWaterSmart.info/trees or sactree.com.
  • Check soil moisture with a moisture meter before turning on sprinklers—saves 80 gallons of water per day.
  • Water plants early in the morning to reduce evaporation—saves 50 gallons of water each time you water.
  • Begin the transition to a beautiful low-water garden by removing half of your lawn this summer. You’ll be ready to add low-water native plants and drip irrigation this winter—saves 90 gallons of water per day per 1,000 square feet of lawn removed each time you water.
  • Contact your water provider about rebates to replace older irrigation equipment, fixtures and appliances with high-efficiency models, including rebates on smart sprinkler timers, high-efficiency sprinklers, drip irrigation and more. Many have increased rebate amounts to help offset costs.

Information about how to implement these actions, additional water-saving tips and a map with watering guidelines for each agency are available at BeWaterSmart.info.

“In California, droughts are part of life and the next dry year is never far off,” said City of Roseville Mayor Krista Bernasconi. “While we are working to manage the severity of this year’s drought, long-term regional efforts build in a level of water resiliency that help minimize the impacts of future dry periods.”

The region’s water providers have developed a comprehensive water resilience portfolio called WaterFuture, which encompasses our entire “supershed” from the mountain tops of the American River watershed to the groundwater basin below the valley floor. You can learn more about this at rwah2o.org/WaterFuture.

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.

The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 20 water providers serving 2 million people in the greater Sacramento region. Formed in 2001, its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources. Learn more at rwah2o.org.

Water Forum Announces Erica Bishop as New Program Manager

Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

SACRAMENTO—The Water Forum is pleased to announce the selection of Erica Bishop as its new Program Manager.

Erica brings 19 years of experience in water and environmental resource management, policy

Erica Bishop

development and project implementation. Before coming to the Water Forum, she supported Federal, State, and local agencies as a planner and project manager on water supply, flood protection, groundwater conjunctive use​ and habitat restoration efforts, where her interdisciplinary background in watershed science helped to bridge the gap between experts, agencies and stakeholders working in California’s complex regulatory and resource environment.

“I can’t think of a better fit for the Water Forum’s habitat management program than Erica Bishop,” said Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law, noting that Erica is transitioning to her new position after serving as a technical consultant for the Water Forum’s 2021 Habitat Restoration Project at Ancil Hoffman Park, as well as other planned projects in the Lower American River. “Erica’s expertise, professionalism and dedication will serve the Water Forum well.”

Erica’s experience includes working in all parts of our watersheds, from geomorphic assessments in headwater streams to foothill Wild and Scenic River studies, down to multi-benefit flood improvements in the Delta.

“I am beyond excited to join the Water Forum, as we look ahead to the next 20 years of collaborative stewardship of our region’s water supply and protecting the invaluable resources of the Lower American River,” Erica said.

Erica holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Oklahoma State University and a master’s in Water Resources from the University of Wyoming. She was also a member of the Water Education Foundation’s 2019 Water Leaders cohort and serves on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two coequal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.

NEWS RELEASE: Public Invited to Learn About a New Salmon Habitat Restoration Project at Ancil Hoffman

Posted on Thursday, July 1st, 2021

SACRAMENT0—The public is invited to learn about a new project designed to restore crucial habitat for native salmon and steelhead trout in the river at Ancil Hoffman, near Effie Yeaw Nature Center, in Carmichael.

Fall-run Chinook salmon migrate to the Lower American River as adults to spawn from October through December. In the egg-laying process, females create a “nest” (called a redd) in loose gravel in flowing water, depositing their eggs and then covering them up with more gravel. Once hatched, young salmon move to the river’s shallow, slower moving side channels to find protection from predators and grow before swimming back out to the Pacific Ocean.

The Ancil Hoffman Habitat Restoration Project will recreate spawning and rearing areas by laying approximately 15,800 cubic yards of clean gravel into the flowing river and carving a new alcove in the existing gravel bar, parallel to the river.

The project is expected to begin in late-August and finish by late-October, before anadromous Chinook salmon return in high numbers from the Pacific Ocean to the Lower American River. Crews may be on site Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (noise starting at 7 a.m.) with in-river work occurring only on weekdays (and not on Labor Day).

Three open houses are scheduled for July to share information about the project:

  • VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE: Thursday, July 15, 2021, 6-7 p.m. (Please register here or via waterforum.org/AH)
  • HOSTED BY THE EFFIE YEAW NATURE CENTER: Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 6-8 p.m. (2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608)
  • HOSTED BY ANCIL HOFFMAN GOLF COURSE: Monday, July 26, 2021, 6-8 p.m. (6700 Tarshes Drive, Carmichael, CA 95608)

More information, including a project Fact Sheet with Map and list of Frequently Asked Questions, is available at waterforum.org/AH.

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.

Change Order

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
 Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)

7/2/21                 0001                     1850                        1750

                             0100                      1750                        1650
                             0200                      1650                        1550
                             0300                      1550                        1450

0400                      1450                        1350

                             0500                      1350                        1300

Note: Conserve storage

Folsom Shutter Change

Posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

On Wednesday June 23, 2021, the middle shutter on Unit 1 will be raised.  This will put Unit 1 in Configuration 3.

 
Status after change:
 
Upper gates – all up
Middle Gates – Units 2 and 3 (Deganged): top panel up, lower panel down, Unit 1 up
Lower Gates – all down
 
 
Note: Elevation requirement

Change Order

Posted on Monday, June 7th, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)
6/07/21              1400                     1750                      1850
Note: Delta Outflow

Change Order

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)
6/04/21               0001                     1250                      1500
                              0200                     1500                      1750
 
Note:  Delta Outflow 

Change Order

Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
 
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)
5/19/21               0001                     900                         1000
                            
Note:  D-1641 Salinity