The Sacramento-San Joaquin
Why We Work Here:
While our more mature programs in Oregon are busy on the ground, we’re starting on the ground floor in California. Here, the mantra “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” is coming to the fore. The state enacted sweeping legislation to collect critical information on surface water and groundwater use to support new and more sustainable water management plans. However, these initiatives are “siloed,” run by different program offices. The data are often never aggregated, decreasing overall effectiveness. TFT is stepping in to connect the dots and ensure this opportunity for innovative solutions leads to real results.
The state’s long-term drought has provided the opportunity to consider new approaches to dealing with the challenges of groundwater sustainability, surface water management and irrigation efficiencies.
All of these concerns overlap geographically in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basin.
Within the basin, the Northern Delta is an area rich with natural resources and a history that includes more than a century of sustainable farming and wildlife stewardship. Much of this area was transferred from federal land to California in 1850 as a part of the Swamp and Overflow Act, where it was reclaimed for agriculture. This region has ample, naturally high water tables, which results in groundwater near the surface. It has an extensive levee system, which conveys surface water to local crops and drinking water as far as the San Francisco Bay Area.
Progress to Date:
Since 2016, TFT has built multiple programs in the basin. In response to Senate Bill 88, we developed a measurement method for surface water diversion that addresses the unique qualities of the Northern Delta region. In 2017, 148 surface water diversions covering more than 29,000 farmed acres in the region — including wine grapes, pears, corn, alfalfa, safflower, tomatoes and wheat — had enrolled in our five-year study.
For groundwater concerns in the same area, we helped support the formation of the Northern Delta Groundwater Sustainability Agency. This means 17 local agencies formed into one integrated agency and have begun work on a unified plan for sustainably managing groundwater use. These agencies are understaffed, so TFT provides the capacity to gather and analyze data and develop effective sustainability measures.
In the Solano Subbasin, we are also supporting the Solano Joint Powers Agency in developing their Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). TFT secured a grant to integrate our BasinScout prioritization method into the GSP and to collaborate with severely disadvantaged communities.
In 2017, we began working with the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San), which provides wastewater treatment services, on a range of surface water and groundwater management initiatives.
TFT supported the preparation of an application for funding through the state’s Water Storage Investment Program for a groundwater storage project. This project would create a sustainable, drought-proof, and climate-change resistant water supply to agriculture as well as wetlands and forest conservation lands.
By the end of 2017, this project proposal was one of the highest ranked applications. In 2018, Regional San received full funding of $280.5 million from the California Water Commission.
By applying our analytical approaches and building on our StreamBank database, we are gaining experience and the opportunity to fine-tune our models for groundwater and surface water management. Over time, our ability to bring together sustainable surface and groundwater planning and management will give us a substantial foothold in the California market and establish TFT’s technical leadership for the state’s most important water legislation.