News & Operations Blog

Water Forum Successor Effort – Plenary Meeting

Posted on Monday, September 27th, 2021

Water Forum Successor Effort – Plenary Meeting

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm


5:30     Welcome and Introductions

5:45     Drought Actions: Investments in Climate Change Resiliency

             Presentation and breakout groups

7:00     Water Forum 2.0 Process Update

7:30     Adjourn

* Updated 9/29/21

Drought Report Offers Sobering Assessment and Call to Action

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2021

By Jessica Law

Folsom Lake, 2014 (Photo Credit: CA DWR)

The Water Forum has been working closely with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to coordinate a response to drought conditions and reduce impacts to regional water supplies and the health of the Lower American River.

We recently welcomed Kristin White, Operations Manager for Reclamation’s Central Valley Project, to provide an update on drought conditions in California and across the Western United States at the Water Forum Drought Plenary. What she shared was both stark and sobering. It was a glimpse into the problems facing federal and state water managers during this extraordinarily challenging water year.

And she also offered a call to action—a role for all of us to play in reducing water use—as federal and state agencies continue their work to prepare for potentially devastating water supply conditions that could result from continued drought in 2022.

Here are some of the key points Kristin shared during her presentation.

Conditions in the American River Region

In the Sacramento region, 2021 is the third driest year on record for Folsom inflow and the center for major snowpack loss. “What hit us so hard this year was the loss of our snowpack,” Kristin said. The snowpack was deeper this winter than in the drought years of 2014-15 but only a fraction of its runoff made its way into creeks and rivers.

Kristin explained that in normal years, most reservoirs start with low storage at the beginning of the water year (which runs October 1-September 30), increase to a peak storage in the spring and then end low. This year, Folsom started low and will end even lower, noting that peak storage at Folsom this water year occurred on October 1, 2020.

On the other hand, Kristin noted that Folsom has a “very high refill potential,” and there’s a “decent chance” that Folsom will be able to recover to “decent storage” next year even if the weather remains dry into 2022.

Second Driest Year in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Watersheds

This year has been the second driest year on record in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds since the development of the Central Valley and State Water Projects, second only to 1977, Kristin said. Putting this into perspective: The state’s major reservoirs—Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, Folsom and New Melones—held 10 million acre feet of water (MAF) on October1, 2019. Those reservoirs are expected to collectively hold less than 4 MAF of water by October 1, 2021.

Shasta generally represents about a third of total storage for the statewide system. In 2021 Shasta inflow was the driest on record—about 200 thousand acre feet (TAF) worse than in 1977 and 250 TAF worse than in 2014. In addition, Oroville, which has a slower refill rate than Folsom, is at record low levels.

To help relieve pressure on Folsom, Oroville and Shasta this summer, Reclamation for the first time in history was able to draw upon New Melones to meet Delta outflow and water quality regulatory requirements. This was possible because new Melones started relatively high. However, storage levels are now less than we had going into 2014.

Disappearing Snowpack not Limited to California

Across the Western United States, drought conditions cover more than 93 percent of the land in seven Western states with nearly 59 percent of the area experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. This is the highest coverage this century and includes all of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and most of Utah.

The Colorado Basin, which serves around 40 million people, is experiencing its 22nd year of drought and earlier this summer, the reservoirs hit their lowest levels since they were originally filled. The entire state of Idaho is in a moderate to exceptional drought, and March through June were among the driest on record. To make things worse, June and July have been among the hottest on record. Boise broke heat records in June beyond the two previous worst years of 1876 and 2015.

One key component shared by most of the large western water systems: relying on snowpack as the largest reservoir. The disappearing snowpack experienced in the American River watershed occurred in most of the basins, Kristin said. The Upper Colorado Basin, for example, saw around average snowpack with only 26 percent of average runoff.

“We Need Everyone to Help”

With minimal storage going into winter, continued dry weather into 2022 would be “devastating,” Kristin said. On July 8, 2021, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order calling on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent compared to 2020 levels. Both Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources are working on emergency planning but will need help from all Californians to conserve the limited water supplies that are available. “We will not be able to get through a dry 2022 alone—we just won’t have the storage,” she said. “We will need everyone, all of California, to step up and help prepare for what could be a devastating year.”


Reclamation selects Levi Johnson for Central Valley Operations Deputy Manager

Congratulations to Reclamation’s Levi Johnson, who was recently named Deputy Manager for the Central Valley Operations Office.

Levi works closely with Water Forum stakeholders and other federal, state, and local agencies; water and power users; the environmental community; and stakeholders to deliver efficient and equitable water solutions. The Water Forum team looks forward to continuing our work together!

Change Order

Posted on Friday, August 27th, 2021
The following change order for releases a Nimbus Dam was issued today:
Date           Time             From (cfs)      To (cfs)

 8/31/21       0001                700                600
Note:   Storage Conservation

Change Order

Posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)

8/25/21            0001                      800                         700

Note: Conserve storage

Agenda Posted for Aug. 26 Water Forum Drought Conference

Posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2021

5:30 – 7:30 P.M.

Introductions and Disclosures
2. Western Drought – Regional Impacts
3. Water Forum Resolution on Drought Actions (Opportunity to Caucus)
4. Breakout Group Discussions on Drought Actions
5. Next Steps
6. Adjourn

*Please contact Ana Ayala at for virtual meeting login information.

Change Order

Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)

8/22/21            0001                      900                         800

Note: Conserve storage

Change Order

Posted on Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
The following change order for releases at Nimbus Dam was issued today:
Date                 Time                  From (cfs)               To (cfs)

8/19/21            0001                     1000                         900

Note: Conserve storage
Ordered by:  T. Washburn

We’re Looking for a Senior Engineer to Join Our Team–deadline extended to 8/20

Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2021

The Sacramento Water Forum is looking for a Senior Engineer to join our team of dedicated professionals focused on the coequal objectives of 1) providing a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and 2) preserving the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the Lower American River.

This is a new position for the Water Forum. The Senior Engineer will be responsible for:

  • Working with an expert team of consultants to update the Water Forum Agreement and lead analysis on reliability of regional surface and groundwater resources, including the development of new purveyor-specific agreements.
  • Managing and providing scientific support for the Modified Flow Management Standard and water quality on the lower American River, including working closely with consultants, local, state, and federal agencies on decisions that impact the Lower American River.
  • Developing and maintaining catalog of Water Forum-related data, modeling, applications, reports, and information based on principles of open data management. Work with staff and consultants to develop performance measures and indicators of success.

Interested? You can get all of the details here. Be sure to act soon…. The application closes on August 20, 2021!


The drought is different this time. Everyone in the Sacramento region must conserve water

Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2021


JULY 31, 2021 06:00 AM,

California is in the grip of another extreme drought. The consequences can be seen all over the Sacramento region and, unfortunately, the worst is yet to come.

We expect to see water levels in the American River this fall that may reach historic lows. This will be difficult not only for people who enjoy recreating in our scenic river corridor, but also for the salmon, steelhead and other native species that need water to survive and reproduce.

That’s why we’re urging everyone in the Sacramento region to start conserving water in earnest.

Earlier this year, local water providers urged residents to set a 10% water conservation goal. In line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement, we’re now calling for 15% conservation, and some, like the Fair Oaks Water District, are asking for more. This is a voluntary goal, but one we hope you’ll take seriously.

Water conservation is nothing new for the capital region. During the most recent drought of 2014-16, residents slashed water use by 25% on an annual basis — one of the deepest cuts achieved anywhere in the state. Most importantly, we achieved a large share of this reduction in the hot summer months, a difficult time to conserve.

It’s only five years later, and we’re asking you to do it again. This time, the cause is somewhat unexpected. Yes, we’ve had two dry winters in a row. But this year, with worsening climate change, we have even less water than many experts anticipated.

Continue reading the full op-ed here.

Ralph Propper is president of the Environmental Council of Sacramento, and Tom Gray is general manager of the Fair Oaks Water District. Both are members of the Water Forum.

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