Stop the diversion of 147,000 acre-feet of American River Water to San Joaquin County

On July 6, 2022, the Environmental Council of Sacramento submitted a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board Administrative Hearings Office (AHO) supporting the AHO’s recommendation to cancel San Joaquin County’s application #29657 from 1990.

Below is an excerpt from the letter.

While not the subject of the AHO’s recommendation, the diversion of 147,000 acre-feet of American River Water to San Joaquin County, as envisioned in application #29657, would have substantial adverse impacts to the American River and would disrupt the Water Forum’s 29 years of work to meet water needs, protect river flows, manage river temperatures for salmon and steelhead, and restore aquatic habitats in the Lower American River. The up-stream diversion would likely impact river flows and summer temperatures. With climate change and the projected demand in this region, the river cannot absorb an additional 140,000+ acre feet of diversion and still maintain the fishery and full recreational potential of the lower American river.

Click here to read the letter in full.

ECOS letter on Water Agencies’ Participation in Sacramento Area Turf Replacement Study

On February 14, 2022, the Environmental Council of Sacramento submitted a letter to Sacramento Area Water Agencies regarding their participation in a Sacramento Area Turf Replacement Study. Below is the content of the letter.

To: Sacramento Area RWA Water Agencies

The Environmental Council of Sacramento’s Water Committee has begun a project to calculate the potential water savings from conversion of ornamental grasses (turf) to drought-tolerant landscaping in the American River water purveyor area (i.e. Regional Water Authority member agencies). We are interested in your input and participation in this study. This letter describes the study plan. For more information or to participate, please contact Katrina Harrison, PE, ECOS Water Committee member and Project Manager, at kandchf[at]gmail[dot]com or (408) 644-9108.

The Water Committee has met with representatives of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to share methodologies and inquire about data sources. DWR staff has been helpful but has suggested relying on publicly available datasets. Therefore, Water Committee plans to calculate the area of current ornamental grasses using 2019 or 2020 publicly available fine scale (~1 foot pixel size wherever possible) aerial and infrared imagery. Aerial images include National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), Bing imagery, Planet, and NearMap.

This imagery dataset will be analyzed using the machine learning, or neural net, algorithms of the software program eCognition to determine turf grass area. Land classifications will be digitized in several sample areas, and the computer model will be trained using those areas including calculating the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as well as a Tree Grass Difference Index. The aerial imagery processing will be validated manually to develop a calculation of the accuracy and estimated error bounds of the analysis.

Following calculation of the area of turf grass, ECOS Water Committee members plan to use California Native Plant Society information on the evapotranspiration and density of different plant palettes – lawn versus drought-tolerant landscaping – to determine the difference in water use. This difference will be multiplied by the area to determine potential water savings.

We appreciate any insight or methodology suggestions you may have. We would like to share our draft results with study participants and will make the final product available to the Water Forum for its consideration in the ongoing Water Forum 2 discussions. If you have an interest in participating, please contact Katrina Harrison at kandchf[at]gmail[dot]com or Ted Rauh at tnrauh[at]att[dot]net. We would appreciate hearing from you before the end of February so that your input can be included in the study.

Click here to view a PDF of the letter.

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

By Jessica Law | July 23, 2021 | Sacramento Water Forum

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.

Click here to read the article in full.

Sacramento Region Supports Governor’s Call for Conservation

July 8, 2021

ECOS, as a Water Forum signatory, is working in concert with all of the Forum members to address the current drought. Unfortunately higher temperatures and periods of drought are increasing in the Sacramento region and we have to prepare for them. The following press release has some important water saving actions you can take and here is another one that will contribute to our current drought situation and the future impacts of climate change as well:

Begin the transition to a beautiful, low-water landscape in your home, business, or public space by removing half of the turf grass this summer. For every one thousand square feet of lawn removed, 90 gallons of water is conserved each time that lawn would have been watered. Now you are ready to add low-water, local native plants and drip irrigation this coming winter. The California Native Plant Society website has information on how to remove your lawn, lists of local native plants that fit your needs and landscape conditions, and tips on how and when to plant them. If you have trees in the lawn area being removed, don’t forget they will still need to be watered.

Landscaping while very important for all of us is a major source of water use. We want beauty and shade in our outdoor spaces; and insects, birds, and animals depend on the plants we choose to survive. Local native plants not only save water, they significantly contribute to the beauty of our region and are critical and highly desirable habitat for local insects, birds and animals.

Ralph Propper, Board President, ECOS


July 8, 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 Proclamation of a Drought State of Emergency, 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.

“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, 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.

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Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Drought Conditions and the Sac Water Forum

On June 1, 2021, Habitat 2020 hosted a presentation/discussion led by Jessica Law, Executive Director of the Sacramento Water Forum.

Jessica’s presentation was focused on the projected conditions of the Folsom Reservoir and the American River as we move through the current drought year and what these conditions portend for the Lower American River, the fisheries in it, and the environment around it. Jessica provided us the results of ongoing analysis done by her consulting staff on water flows and temperatures projected to occur that result from the Bureau’s reservoir operations including their impacts on the fisheries. She also briefed us on discussions she is having with the Bureau and other agencies involved in river operations. finally, Jessica discussed the Folsom Reservoir and American River operations, flows, and temperature objectives the Water Forum is working to have the Bureau and others adopt for this year.

Click here for a video recording of the presentation on Google Drive.

Water Forum II Update Effort

Updated January 5, 2020

ECOS and Habitat 2020 are part of the Water Forum update effort.

The year 2021 will see a lot of activity including discussions and formulation of new Water Forum Agreement language. The following chart prepared by the Water Forum staff lays out the issue topics and the Water Forum Agreement update schedule for the coming year. The foundational learning sessions conducted in 2020 were recorded and can be viewed by accessing the Water Forum website. This year, the issues focused Work Groups (WG) will be developing any specific language changes to the existing Water Forum Agreement. Proposed changes will be discussed in Caucus and Plenary sessions before their eventual ratification by the Water Forum Agreement Signatories. You can follow the progress of the potential modifications to the Water Forum Agreement on the Water Forum website.

To support deliberations, a series of learning sessions were held in July and August 2020 to provide current and potential Water Forum signatories with information to promote a shared understanding of several cross-cutting topics: climate change, fisheries, habitat, groundwater management, and urban water management planning (including demand management, water use efficiency and conservation). An additional educational session on the management of the American River Watershed was held in the fall of 2020. Summaries of these sessions can be found on the Water Forum web site.

The year 2021 will see a lot of Water Forum update activity including discussions and formulation of new Water Forum II Agreement language. The Water Forum II Draft Timeline, prepared by the Water Forum staff, lays out the issue topics and the Water Forum Agreement update schedule for the coming year. This year, issue focused Work Groups (WG) will be developing specific language changes to the existing Water Forum Agreement. Proposed changes will be discussed in Caucus and Plenary sessions before their eventual ratification by the Water Forum Agreement Signatories. You can follow the progress of the potential modifications to the Water Forum Agreement on the Water Forum Web site link above.

The document The Water Forum Past, Present, and Future provides a cogent summary of the history of the Water Forum Agreement, what has happened over the course of the past 20 years that may result in the need for the Agreement’s updating, and what future impacts the region is likely to face and how an updated Agreement will help the region adapt to these changes.

The Water Forum is composed of four caucuses – Environmental, Public interests, Water Purveyors, and Business. ECOS and Habitat 2020 members as well as other environmental groups are represented on the Environmental Caucus. As a prelude to the learning sessions and upcoming negotiation discussions, each caucus developed a Statement of Interests to clarify its intentions and interests in a renegotiated Water Forum Agreement. Access to the Environmental Caucus Statement of interest is possible through this link.

There are a significant number of ECOS members who are actively involved with the Water Forum and this renegotiation effort. If you have questions about the Water Forum or its programs, please contact the Water Forum’s Executive Director, Jessica Law. Questions about the Environmental Caucus Statement of Interests can be directed to Habitat 2020.