News & Operations Blog
Date time from (cfs) to (cfs)
5/19/20 2100 1750 1650
5/19/20 2200 1650 1550
5/19/20 2300 1550 1500
5/20/20 2100 1500 1400
5/20/20 2200 1400 1300
5/20/20 2300 1300 1250Note: Storage conservation
Date time from (cfs) to (cfs)
5/13/20 0700 1250 1500
5/13/20 0800 1500 1750
Note: Delta needs
Ordered by: Peggy Manza
4/27/20 2200 1500 1400
4/27/20 2300 1400 1300
4/28/20 0000 1300 1200
5/03/20 0700 1200 1250Note: Change requested by fisheries agencies as stranding was observed in an upper side channel when we went to 1000 cfs on 4-25. This change is to prevent additional stranding with this flow drop. Reduction to 1200 cfs will be held for 5 days to ensure total mini pulse action remains water neutral.
When the Water Forum Agreement was officially signed 20 years ago, the occasion marked an unprecedented show of regional cooperation. For years, interests representing business, the environment, water suppliers and others had sparred over the water needs of people vs. the environment of the lower American River. This tension was prompted by a growing population, competing water supply and environmental needs and steadily declining groundwater levels.
“Environmentalists feared the American River would be drawn down to a trickle. Water managers wondered how they’d get customers to pay for new pipes and pumps necessary to increase reliability to keep faucets flowing in the next century,” wrote then-Sacramento Bee reporter Nancy Vogel.
To address these challenges, the City and County of Sacramento launched the Water Forum negotiations in 1993. Slowly, over the next seven years and thousands of hours of meetings, stakeholders negotiated a new plan that would bring cohesion to an uncoordinated approach to water supplies and environmental stewardship on the lower American River.
Ultimately, 40 different agencies—from the City and County of Sacramento to the Friends of the River to the Sacramento Metro Chamber—signed the agreement on April 24, 2000, marking the launch of the Water Forum’s real-world test.
Twenty years later, Water Forum members have made significant progress toward meeting the co-equal goals of providing a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health and preserving the ﬁshery, wildlife, recreational and aesthetic values of the lower American River. And, now, they are examining how the Water Forum Agreement can continue to serve the Sacramento region in the coming decades and a future with climate change.
A Long-Lasting Model for Collaboration
Over the years, the Water Forum has demonstrated time and again how diverse stakeholders can work together to develop lasting and holistic solutions for nurturing the river. During California’s recent drought emergency, for example, as water levels in Folsom Reservoir and the lower American River dwindled to historic lows, the Water Forum convened its Dry Year Conference.
Working together through the Dry Year Conference, Water Forum members developed emergency flow strategies to minimize harm to salmon and steelhead during the drought’s driest days and discussed plans for reducing demand on the river by shifting to using more groundwater and increasing conservation. The conference also provided a venue for water providers to identify potential interties that could help neighboring water agencies share drought-limited water supplies to meet municipal health and safety needs.
It’s easy for water stakeholders to get along when water is abundant, but in times of drought we are tested, and the Water Forum has helped us time and again pass that test.
Cutting-Edge Science and Adaptive Management
The Water Forum’s approach to meeting the co-equal goals has been grounded in cutting-edge science. After two decades, no other entity knows the lower American River—the Sacramento region’s crown jewel—like the Water Forum does.
Water Forum studies have produced detailed underwater maps of the lower American River to identify ideal locations for enhancing habitat that also avoid impacting flood safety. These studies have also revealed data on lower American River fish lifecycles, including spawning and rearing, adaptation and roaming. Identifying how long it takes salmon to use a new restoration site after construction and how long each site is utilized has been critically important to helping fisheries. The overall tracking of how the Water Forum’s restoration work benefits fish; and more.
And, step-by-step adaptive management over the years has helped the Water Forum hone in on the exact conditions needed for salmon restoration, providing details about the right depth for gravel placement, flow, rock size and other parameters.
Progressive Solutions for Managing Temperature and Flow
For the past two decades, the Water Forum has been studying and refining guidelines for a flow standard for the lower American River that would provide enough cold water to nurture salmon and steelhead while also improving the reliability of water supplies for people. The Water Forum’s research has demonstrated that proper flows and cold water are the foundation to fish survival. Temperature, in particular, is considered to be the greatest stressor to species survival.
The Water Forum’s Flow Management Standard (FMS), first implemented in 2006, uses the best available science to set targets for minimum river flows and cold water storage at Folsom Reservoir. The Water Forum modified the FMS based upon real-world experience during the drought and is now working with federal and state agencies that manage Folsom Reservoir and the state’s waterways to encourage their adoption of the Modified Flow Management Standard (MFMS).
In addition to developing a new flow standard, the Water Forum also has been successfully working to restore and improve habitat for fish in the lower American River. The Water Forum leverages funding from local cities and water providers, Sacramento County, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and state and federal agencies to create protected places for Chinook and steelhead to reproduce and rear their young.
Over the past decade, agencies have invested more than $7 million to create over 30 acres of spawning beds and 1.2 miles of side channels, which are prime rearing zones. Most recently, the Water Forum completed a major habitat restoration project on the lower American River at Sailor Bar designed to create ideal conditions for salmon and steelhead to spawn and rear their young. Partnering with federal, state and local agencies, Water Forum teams restored river habitat with stunning results: After counting zero salmon nests (redds) in 2018, the restoration site teemed with more than 345 redds after the project.
Reducing Reliance on the River
Finally, Water Forum stakeholders are working to protect the lower American River by reducing our reliance on the river for water supplies by increasing residential water efficiency and shifting to groundwater during dry times to leave more water in the river for fish and wildlife. Water use in the Sacramento region has remained steady over the past decade even as the area’s population has increased.
This year, as the Water Forum celebrates its 20th anniversary, stakeholders are embarking on a new strategic planning process to consider lessons learned over the past two decades and where the Water Forum should go from here, particularly in a future with climate change. The Water Forum Agreement is a living document—envisioned to adapt with changing conditions—yet ever focused on meeting the co-equal goals through collaboration.
Please click here to view the full Sacramento Region Media Statement released January 3, 2020.
Sacramento, Calif. – Regional organizations that provide water supply, flood protection, groundwater management and ecosystem restoration in the American River watershed today applauded the findings and recommended actions presented in Governor Gavin Newsom’s draft Water Resilience Portfolio, the state’s first-ever comprehensive and long-term plan on how to manage the state’s water resources in the face of climate change. The report recommends developing inclusive solutions that protect the natural and human environment and provide water for our communities. The greater Sacramento region has been at the forefront of this approach for decades.
The Regional Water Authority, Sacramento Groundwater Authority, Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, and Water Forum are committed to continuing to collaborate with each other and its state and federal government partners to advance long-term, regional planning and projects to maintain and diversify supplies, protect and enhance natural systems, and build more connected, adaptive water management infrastructure to be prepared for more extreme weather and less predictable precipitation patterns.
“Our region has long been preparing to address the impacts from climate change on our water resources at a watershed scale. We believe the water resilience portfolio findings are fully aligned with the solutions we have been developing,” said Jim Peifer, executive director for the Regional Water Authority and Sacramento Groundwater Authority. “The region’s climate adaptation portfolio re-imagines how water should be managed in the face of a less reliable water supply and a greater flood threat that is expected from reduced snowpack and flashier rainstorms in a narrower wet season. While these challenges are real and daunting, we know our holistic approach will solve them.”
“Through the Water Forum, our region has a 20-year track record of applying science and innovative management practices to balance water supply reliability with ecosystem health on the lower American River,” said Tom Gohring, executive director of the Water Forum. “The governor’s report underscores that our region can take this same, collaborative approach to building climate resiliency through new projects and practices that make our water management more adaptive and nimble in the face of changing weather conditions.”
“Climate change is posing a serious challenge to the sustainability of the water management system that we currently rely on to control flooding, meet our water demands and protect the American River,” said Rick Johnson, executive director for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. “SAFCA brings a unique perspective and years of experience in addressing this challenge and looks forward to working with the Newsom Administration and our federal and regional partners in taking the bold steps that are needed to make our system more climate-resilient.”
Over the past two decades, more than $4 billion has been invested in our region in partnership with state, federal, private and other local partners to restore habitat, increase our water use efficiency, expand conjunctive use, reduce our flood risk, and expand the flexibility of the system to adapt to periods of increased drought and serious flood threat.
The regional agencies pointed to the following initiatives that will further build climate resiliency in the American River watershed by enhancing flood protection, diversifying water supplies, allowing for adaptive management practices and promoting species health on the lower American River. All of them will require significant investment from state, federal and regional agencies.
Sacramento Regional Water Bank: The Water Bank is an innovative groundwater storage program that will improve water supply reliability and environmental conditions for the Sacramento region. It utilizes a groundwater reservoir that would have about two times the amount of storage space as Folsom Lake. The bank could enable the region to cut groundwater use in half during wet years through capture of excess surface water and provide an additional groundwater supply during dry years, benefiting the environment and downstream communities beyond the region.
Sacramento River Arc: This project will transform regional water supply by shifting of portion of the municipal supplies away from the American River and toward the Sacramento River. It will better connect the region’s conveyance, treatment and groundwater storage to an existing diversion point on the Sacramento River. Doing so will continue a long-standing regional commitment to protect the aquatic habitat of the lower American River, while at the same time providing needed water supply reliability. It will increase opportunities for groundwater banking and allow for changed Folsom Reservoir operations to accommodate a changing climate. More flexibility in Folsom Reservoir operations will give state and federal water managers another tool for managing Delta water quality.
Ecosystem Restoration: The investments and collaborative work undertaken by the Water Forum have provided new models and approaches to balancing co-equal goals for water management, including optimal reservoir operations, monitoring biological conditions and constructing improved habitat. This work can be enhanced with additional state investments in planning and development of habitat and cold-water infrastructure.
Sacramento Area Flood Risk Reduction and Managed Aquifer Recharge: SAFCA is working to increase flood storage capacity in non-federal reservoirs upstream from Folsom Reservoir by using advances in weather and runoff forecasting and modifying the outlet works of these upstream facilities. The increase of atmospheric river events and reduction in snowmelt runoff throughout the winter and spring provides opportunities to leverage system capacity, thereby reducing pressure on Folsom Reservoir and downstream levees, enhancing habitat flows on the American and Cosumnes rivers and redirecting flood flows for groundwater recharge in the south American and Cosumnes basins.
Yolo Bypass Integrated Multi-Benefit Program: This SAFCA-sponsored project is designed to improve ecosystem and flood management system resiliency in the lower Sacramento River by enlarging the Yolo Bypass through levee setbacks and using the floodplain to improve fish passage, expanding fish rearing habitat by inundating the floodplain, and improving terrestrial habitat in the floodplain.
Upper Watershed and Forestry Management: Climate change adaptation must include ensuring healthy headwaters. California faces the overwhelming challenge of overstocked and unhealthy forests, where the consequences are unnecessary evapotranspiration, ecosystems being out of balance, and catastrophic fire, resulting in long-term harm to our environment and water supply. Through projects implemented under multi-stakeholder collaboration, selective thinning of small and medium sized trees, burn treatments and targeted reforestation of climate resilient trees will ensure a healthy future in California headwaters. The targeted outcome is forests that are naturally resilient and better for water supply and natural habitat.
The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 21 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.
The Sacramento Groundwater Authority (SGA) is a joint powers authority formed in 1998 to manage the Sacramento County’s north area groundwater basin. Recognized as essential to implementing the groundwater management element of the historic Water Forum Agreement, SGA coordinates the regional program to manage and conjunctively use groundwater and surface water to meet water needs through 2030 while reducing diversions from the lower American River to benefit the environment. Learn more at sgah2o.org.
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 Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) is a joint powers authority that was formed in 1989 to provide the Sacramento region with increased flood protection along the American and Sacramento rivers. Its members include the City of Sacramento, Sacramento County, Sutter County, Reclamation District No. 1000 and the American River Flood Control District. Learn more at safca.org.
FAIR OAKS—Federal, state and local agencies recently came together to celebrate a new project to protect salmon and steelhead in the lower American River. Over the next several weeks, restoration teams are carving out a new side channel at Sailor Bar in Fair Oaks and placing more than 14,000 cubic yards of gravel in the river to help fish spawn and rear their young.
Gathered along the river’s shoreline, with giant excavators and bulldozers working in the background, representatives from the Water Forum and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation discussed the partnership that is making the project possible.
“The heart of this project is the collaboration among local, state and federal agencies,” said Richard Welsh, Acting Deputy Regional Director for Reclamation’s Interior Region 10 California-Great Basin. Welsh noted the work of a Science Integration Team responsible for planning, managing and monitoring the project and its results. The team includes scientists from Reclamation, the Water Forum, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Other project partners include the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) and Sacramento County Parks, as well as the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities, which is lending their crews and heavy equipment to the work.
“We’re engaged with Reclamation through the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and our other partners in developing a Voluntary Agreement designed to provide flow and non-flow benefits to the Bay-Delta watershed,” said Tom Gohring, executive director of the Water Forum, which represents a diverse group of water providers such as the City of Sacramento, local environmentalist NGOs and local governments focused on safeguarding the lower American River for both drinking water and wildlife.
“This project demonstrates that we can construct habitat in a timely manner,” Gohring said. “Even more, these projects could be expanded through the Voluntary Agreement.”
This is the region’s ninth project restoring fish spawning gravel beds and improving juvenile fish rearing habitat on the lower American River. Since 2008, agencies have invested more than $7 million to create over 30 acres of spawning beds and 1.2 miles of side channels, which are prime rearing zones. In addition to Central Valley Project Improvement Act, much of this funding has come from partner grants.
To learn more about the Sacramento region’s habitat restoration work on the lower American River, visit the Habitat Management Page.