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Water in California

Water in California

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California’s
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 interconnected water system
Tap water
Tap water is a principal component of "indoor plumbing", which became available in urban areas of the developed world during the last quarter of the 19th century, and common during the mid-20th century...

 serves over 30 million people and irrigates over 5680000 acre (2,298,616.5 ha) of farmland. As the world’s largest, most productive, and most controversial water system, it manages over 40000000 acre.ft of water per year.

Sources of water


California’s water supply comes from two sources: surface water
Surface water
Surface water is water collecting on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, wetland, or ocean; it is related to water collecting as groundwater or atmospheric water....

, or water that travels or gathers on the ground, like rivers, streams, and lakes; and groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

, which is water that is pumped out from the ground.

Groundwater


While few often think of the water beneath the surface of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, it is an important element of the water cycle
Water cycle
The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle or H2O cycle, describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. Water can change states among liquid, vapor, and solid at various places in the water cycle...

. Water that falls as rain, and then is absorbed into the ground will generally make its way to the water table
Water table
The water table is the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity. However, saturated conditions may extend above the water table as...

, or “aquifer”. It is this water from the aquifer that is pumped out of the ground to be used for human purposes. Groundwater is a critical element of the California water supply. During an average year, 40% of the state’s water supply comes from groundwater. In times of intense drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

, groundwater consumption can rise to 60% or more.
Over 850000000 acre.ft of water, enough to cover California to a depth of 8 feet (2 m) is stored in California’s 450 known groundwater reservoirs. However, not all the water is usable. Over half of the groundwater is unavailable due to poor quality and the high cost of pumping the water from the ground. While surface water is concentrated mostly in the northern part of the state, groundwater is more evenly distributed.

The largest groundwater reservoirs are found in the Central Valley. The majority of the supply there is in the form of runoff that seeps into the aquifer. The freshwater is usually found in deposits of gravel, silt, and sand. Below these deposits lies a layer of deep sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

, a relic of the era when the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 covered the area.

Though California has laws governing surface water usage and quality, there exist no statewide groundwater management laws. Each groundwater basin is individually adjudicated to determine water rights. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, land ownership implicitly carries the right to virtually unlimited groundwater pumping.

The large quantity of water beneath the surface has given rise to the misconception that groundwater is a sort of renewable resource that can be limitlessly tapped. While the volume of groundwater is very large, aquifers can be over drafted when groundwater is removed more rapidly than it is replenished. On average, annual over drafting is around 2200000 acre.ft across the state, with 800000 acre.ft in the Central Valley. The assumption that groundwater usage is sustainable if the rate of removal equals the rate of recharge is often not correct, because these assumptions often ignore changes in water consumption and water renewal.

Surface water


California has ten major drainage basins defined for convenience of water management. These basins are divided from one another by the crests of mountains. From north to south the basins are: North Coast, Sacramento River
Sacramento River
The Sacramento River is an important watercourse of Northern and Central California in the United States. The largest river in California, it rises on the eastern slopes of the Klamath Mountains, and after a journey south of over , empties into Suisun Bay, an arm of the San Francisco Bay, and...

, North Lahontan, San Francisco Bay
San Francisco Bay
San Francisco Bay is a shallow, productive estuary through which water draining from approximately forty percent of California, flowing in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from the Sierra Nevada mountains, enters the Pacific Ocean...

, San Joaquin River
San Joaquin River
The San Joaquin River is the largest river of Central California in the United States. At over long, the river starts in the high Sierra Nevada, and flows through a rich agricultural region known as the San Joaquin Valley before reaching Suisun Bay, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean...

, Central Coast, Tulare Lake, South Lahontan, South Coast, and Colorado River
Colorado River
The Colorado River , is a river in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The watershed of the Colorado River covers in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states...

 regions. Each region incorporates watersheds
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 from many rivers of similar clime.
Hydrologic region Annual precipitation Annual runoff
North Coast 55900000 acre.ft 28900000 acre.ft
Sacramento River 52400000 acre.ft 22400000 acre.ft
North Lahontan 6000000 acre.ft 1900000 acre.ft
San Francisco Bay 5500000 acre.ft 1200000 acre.ft
San Joaquin River 21800000 acre.ft 7900000 acre.ft
Central Coast 12300000 acre.ft 2500000 acre.ft
Tulare Lake 13900000 acre.ft 3300000 acre.ft
South Lahontan 9300000 acre.ft 1300000 acre.ft
South Coast 10800000 acre.ft 1200000 acre.ft
Colorado River 4300000 acre.ft 200000 acre.ft

Uses of water


Around 75% of California’s water supply comes from north of Sacramento
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

, while 80% of the water demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state.
The majority of California water is used by the agricultural industry
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

. About 80-85% of all California water is used for agricultural purposes. This water irrigates almost 29 million acres (117,358.9 km²), on which grow 350 different crops. Urban users consume 10% of the water, or around 8700000 acre.ft. Industry receives the remnant of the water supply.

Water distribution


There are six main systems of aqueducts and infrastructure that redistribute and transport water in California: the State Water Project
California State Water Project
The California State Water Project, commonly known as the SWP , is the world's largest publicly built and operated water and power development and conveyance system. The SWP was designed and is operated by the California Department of Water Resources...

, the Central Valley Project
Central Valley Project
The Central Valley Project is a Bureau of Reclamation federal water project in the U.S. state of California. It was devised in 1933 in order to provide irrigation and municipal water to much of California's Central Valley—by regulating and storing water in reservoirs in the water-rich northern...

, several Colorado River delivery systems, the Los Angeles Aqueduct
Los Angeles Aqueduct
The Los Angeles Aqueduct system comprising the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, is a water conveyance system operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power...

, the Tuolumne River
Tuolumne River
The Tuolumne River is a California river that flows nearly from the central Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley...

/Hetch Hetchy
Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in California. It is currently completely flooded by O'Shaughnessy Dam, forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The Tuolumne River fills the reservoir. Upstream from the valley lies the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The reservoir...

 system, and the Mokelumne Aqueduct.

The State Water Project



The California State Water Project is the largest multipurpose, state-built water project in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The SWP transports water from the Feather River
Feather River
The Feather River is the principal tributary of the Sacramento River, in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California. The river's main stem is about long. Its length to its most distant headwater tributary is about . Its drainage basin is about...

 watershed to agriculture, and some of the water goes to industrial and urban users. More than two-thirds of Californians receive some water from the SWP. In an average year the SWP delivers 2300000 acre.ft, but the system has over committed and contracted to deliver 4200000 acre.ft.
Twenty-nine agencies hold contracts for SWP water. The contractors pay for SWP’s major operating costs and have gradually reduced the $1.75 billion bond debt that supplied funds for initial construction. In the years since 1960, SWP has built 29 dam
Dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

s, 18 pumping plants, five hydroelectric power plants
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

, and around 600 miles (965.6 km) of canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s and pipelines.

The SWP system begins with reservoirs on upper tributaries of the Feather River. Oroville Dam
Oroville Dam
Oroville Dam spans the Feather River about northeast of the city of Oroville, California. It forms Lake Oroville, which stores water for irrigation, flood control, municipal water supply and hydroelectricity generation in California's Sacramento Valley. The dam lies in the foothills of the Sierra...

 creates the largest SWP reservoir
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

. At 770 feet (234.7 m) above the riverbed, the dam is the tallest in the United States. The reservoir covers 15000 acres (60.7 km²) and holds 3500000 acre.ft.
Water travels from Lake Oroville to the Sacramento River. At Harvey O. Banks Delta Pumping Plant, which pulls SWP water into the Bethany Reservoir, around 2200000 acre.ft are extracted from the Delta each year.
Water that flows to the south end of the San Joaquin Valley must be pumped over the Tehachapi Mountains
Tehachapi Mountains
The Tehachapi Mountains , regionally also called The Tehachapis, are a mountain range in the Transverse Ranges system of California in the Western United States...

. Because of this, the SWP is California’s largest energy consumer, and even though the hydroelectric plants of the SWP generate 5900 GWh per year, that is only a fraction of the energy needed to lift water over the Tehachapis.
Below the Tehachapis the California Aqueduct splits, with the west branch storing water in Castaic and Pyramid Lake, and the east branch storing water in the Silverwood Lake reservoir.

The Central Valley Project


The CVP’s original purpose was to tame seasonal flooding and to direct water to the south to irrigate 3 million acres (12,140.6 km²) of farmland. The CVP is operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation
United States Bureau of Reclamation
The United States Bureau of Reclamation , and formerly the United States Reclamation Service , is an agency under the U.S...

. As one of the largest water systems in the world it stores over 7000000 acre.ft of water, or 17 percent of the state’s developed water. The CVP dams and diverts five major rivers: the Trinity
Trinity River (California)
The Trinity River is the longest tributary of the Klamath River, approximately long, in northwestern California in the United States. It drains an area of the Coast Ranges, including the southern Klamath Mountains, northwest of the Sacramento Valley...

, the Sacramento
Sacramento River
The Sacramento River is an important watercourse of Northern and Central California in the United States. The largest river in California, it rises on the eastern slopes of the Klamath Mountains, and after a journey south of over , empties into Suisun Bay, an arm of the San Francisco Bay, and...

, the American
American River
The American River is a California watercourse noted as the site of Sutter's Mill, northwest of Placerville, California, where gold was found in 1848, leading to the California Gold Rush...

, the Stanislaus
Stanislaus River
The Stanislaus River in California is one of the largest tributaries of the San Joaquin River. The river is long and has north, middle and south forks...

, and the San Joaquin
San Joaquin River
The San Joaquin River is the largest river of Central California in the United States. At over long, the river starts in the high Sierra Nevada, and flows through a rich agricultural region known as the San Joaquin Valley before reaching Suisun Bay, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean...

.
Friant Dam
Friant Dam
Friant Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the upper San Joaquin River in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Fresno County and Madera County near the town of Friant. The dam, completed in 1942, forms Millerton Lake and was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the dam. The lake...

, on the San Joaquin, was completed in 1944, forming Millerton Lake. This was one of 20 reservoirs in the CVP. Shasta Dam
Shasta Dam
Shasta Dam is an arch dam across the Sacramento River in the northern part of the U.S. state of California, at the north end of the Sacramento Valley. The dam mainly serves long-term water storage and flood control in its reservoir, Shasta Lake, and also generates hydroelectric power...

, the largest CVP storage facility, was completed in 1945. At Sacramento, American River water stored by Folsom Dam
Folsom Dam
Folsom Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the American River in Northern California, about northeast of Sacramento. Folsom Dam is high concrete and long, flanked by earthen wing dams...

 is added. 2500000 acre.ft are annually pumped from the Delta into the Delta-Mendota Canal.
New Melones Dam
New Melones Dam
New Melones Dam is an earth and rock filled dam across the Stanislaus River creating New Melones Lake. Situated between Calaveras and Tuolumne County, California in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Jamestown, the dam was completed in 1979 replacing the old Melones Dam.-Background:The dam was...

 on the Stanislaus River was finished in 1979, and the reservoir was filled in 1982.

The CVP has generated some controversy about environmental damage, prices charged to farmers, and lax enforcement of farm size limitations. Bureau of Reclamation water was supposed to be used for farms limited to 160 acres (see Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

). Under Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Mexican
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 land grant
Land grant
A land grant is a gift of real estate – land or its privileges – made by a government or other authority as a reward for services to an individual, especially in return for military service...

s, however, there were only a few land owners, all of whom owned large tracts of land. A 1982 reform increased CVP area limits to 960 acres (3.9 km²). In 1992, the Central valley Project Improvement Act made fish and wildlife protection and restoration the primary purposes of the CVP. 800000 acre.ft of annual runoff were dedicated to environmental usage, which generated intense controversy. The diversion of the San Joaquin by the CVP made it impossible for over 100,000 salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 to reach spawning grounds.

Colorado River Systems


The Colorado River is the source of 4400000 acre.ft per year for California. Six other states along the river’s watershed (Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

, Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

) and Mexico, share allocated portions of river water. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is the largest supplier of treated water in the US. The name is usually shortened to the "Metropolitan Water District" or simply "MWD". It is a cooperative of 14 cities and 12 municipal water districts that indirectly provides water to 18...

, or MWD, holds priority water rights on the Colorado. It sells water to 95 percent of the South Coast region.
Lake Mead
Lake Mead
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. It is located on the Colorado River about southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the states of Nevada and Arizona. Formed by water impounded by the Hoover Dam, it extends behind the dam, holding approximately of water.-History:The lake was...

, formed by Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President...

, is the primary reservoir in the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River Aqueduct
Colorado River Aqueduct
The Colorado River Aqueduct, or CRA, is a water conveyance in Southern California in the United States, operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California . The aqueduct impounds water from the Colorado River at Lake Havasu on the California-Arizona border west across the Mojave...

 begins 155 miles (249.4 km) downstream from Hoover Dam, and can carry 1200000 acre.ft annually.

The Colorado is often over allocated, because apportionments were made on inaccurate measurements of annual runoff. Marc Reisner
Marc Reisner
Marc Reisner was an American environmentalist and writer best known for his book Cadillac Desert, a history of water management in the American West....

 in ‘’Cadillac Desert
Cadillac Desert
Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner, is a 1986 book published by Viking about land development and water policy in the western United States. Subtitled The American West and its Disappearing Water, it gives the history of the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and their struggle...

’’ said the Colorado is "unable to satisfy all the demands on it, so it is referred to as a ‘deficit’ river, as if the river were somehow at fault for its overuse."
For years California took more than its share of the apportionment, because other states were not prepared to use their entire allotments. MWD became used to 800000 acre.ft excess of water. Pressure from other Colorado river states caused the Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 to order California to show progress towards decreasing its dependency on the excess 800000 acre.ft, or face cuts. The Colorado River Water Use Plan called for Imperial and Coachella Valley agriculture to give up water in order to reallocate 800000 acre.ft within the state.
The plan’s proposals generated much controversy, and the deadline arrived with no agreement reached. The Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

 reduced MWD’s access by 415000 acre.ft.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct


The Los Angeles Aqueduct
Los Angeles Aqueduct
The Los Angeles Aqueduct system comprising the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, is a water conveyance system operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power...

 carries water from the Eastern Sierra Nevada to Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

. The construction of the aqueduct marked the first major water delivery project in California. The city purchased 300000 acres (1,214.1 km²) of land in the Owens Valley
Owens Valley
Owens Valley is the arid valley of the Owens River in eastern California in the United States, to the east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the White Mountains and Inyo Mountains on the west edge of the Great Basin section...

 in order to gain access to water rights. (See: California Water Wars
California Water Wars
The California Water Wars were a series of conflicts between the city of Los Angeles, farmers and ranchers in the Owens Valley of Eastern California, and environmentalists. As Los Angeles grew in the late 1800s, it started to outgrow its water supply. Fred Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles, realized that...

)
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the largest municipal utility in the United States, serving over four million residents. It was founded in 1902 to supply water and electricity to residents and businesses in Los Angeles and surrounding communities...

 transports 400000 acre.ft of Eastern Sierra Nevada water to the city each year. This growth clearly shows William Mulholland’s
William Mulholland
William Mulholland was the head of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, in Los Angeles. He was responsible for building the water aqueducts and dams that allowed the city to grow into one of the largest in the world. His methods of obtaining water for the city led to disputes collectively...

 observation that “Whoever brings the water, brings the people.”

After four decades of diversion from the Mono Lake
Mono Lake
Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean...

 area, environmental damage created an environmental battle in the 1980s, with a victory for the Mono Lake proponents in 1994. Other problems arose when dust from the bed of Owens Lake
Owens Lake
Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is located about south of Lone Pine, California...

 (completely dried up by diversions) became a major source of air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

 in the southern Owens Valley. To restore Mono Lake, correct air-quality law violations, and rewater portions of the Owens River, Los Angeles has begun to reduce its dependence on Eastern Sierra Nevada water. This has mostly been achieved through water conservation. The city enacted a program offering free low-flow toilets to its customers.

Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct


The Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct
Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct
The Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct is a conveyance of Tuolumne River water runoff from federal lands in Yosemite National Park to San Francisco and its client municipalities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area...

 carries water from the Tuolumne River
Tuolumne River
The Tuolumne River is a California river that flows nearly from the central Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley...

 to San Francisco and other Bay Area
San Francisco Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area, commonly known as the Bay Area, is a populated region that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California. The region encompasses metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, along with smaller urban and rural areas...

 regions. The system starts in Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in California. It is currently completely flooded by O'Shaughnessy Dam, forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The Tuolumne River fills the reservoir. Upstream from the valley lies the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The reservoir...

, inside Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain...

. The system also generates electricity, which is a major source of revenue for San Francisco. After water leaves Hetch Hetchy, it passes through tunnels towards powerhouses. Three pipes then bring the water across the Central Valley. Concerns about the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct’s ability to withstand earthquakes led to a $1.7 billion bond, approved by voters in November 2002.

Mokelumne Aqueduct


The East Bay Municipal Utility District
East Bay Municipal Utility District
East Bay Municipal Utility District , colloquially referred to as "East Bay Mud", provides water and sewage treatment for customers in portions of Alameda County and Contra Costa County in California, on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, including the cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, Hercules,...

 (EBMUD) serves 35 communities in Alameda
Alameda County, California
Alameda County is a county in the U.S. state of California. It occupies most of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 1,510,271, making it the 7th most populous county in the state...

 and Contra Costa
Contra Costa County, California
Contra Costa County is a primarily suburban county in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 1,049,025...

 Counties, including Berkeley
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

 and Oakland.
The Mokelumne River in the central Sierra Nevada is the source for almost all of EBMUD’s water. EBMUD built the Pardee Dam
Pardee Dam
Pardee Dam is a -high structure across the Mokelumne River which marks the boundary between Amador and Calaveras Counties, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada approximately about northeast of Stockton....

 across the Mokelumne in the foothills northeast of Stockton
Stockton, California
Stockton, California, the seat of San Joaquin County, is the fourth-largest city in the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California. With a population of 291,707 at the 2010 census, Stockton ranks as this state's 13th largest city...

. South of Pardee is Camanche Reservoir, which regulates releases to serve downstream water rights holders.
EBMUD holds almost 30000 acres (121.4 km²) in the Mokulumne River watershed and 25000 acres (101.2 km²) in other watersheds. EBMUD also has an American River water right that could be sent to the Mokelumne Aqueduct through the Folsom South Canal. The only time this has been done was during the drought years of 1977-78, when the water was actually pumped from the Delta. This generated controversy, as EBMUD preferred the cleaner water from the American River, but environmentalists and Sacramento had concerns about the impacts such a diversion would have on the river. The legal battle led to affirmation of EBMUD’s water right, but modifications were also negotiated. The intake point was moved downstream, to maintain minimum flows in the American River before it merges with the Sacramento.

North Bay


Certain municipalities north of San Francisco Bay, including Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa, California
Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma County, California, United States. The 2010 census reported a population of 167,815. Santa Rosa is the largest city in California's Wine Country and fifth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, after San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont and 26th...

 and Petaluma
Petaluma, California
Petaluma is a city in Sonoma County, California, in the United States. In the 2010 Census the population was 57,941.Located in Petaluma is the Rancho Petaluma Adobe, a National Historic Landmark. It was built beginning in 1836 by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, then Commandant of the San...

, are served by the Sonoma County Water Agency
Sonoma County Water Agency
The Sonoma County Water Agency is the government agency responsible for managing the water resources of Sonoma County, California...

. Their primary water source is the Russian River
Russian River (California)
The Russian River, a southward-flowing river, drains of Sonoma and Mendocino counties in Northern California. With an annual average discharge of approximately , it is the second largest river flowing through the nine county Greater San Francisco Bay Area with a mainstem 110 miles ...

.

The cities of Vallejo
Vallejo, California
Vallejo is the largest city in Solano County, California, United States. The population was 115,942 at the 2010 census. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area on the northeastern shore of San Pablo Bay...

, Fairfield
Fairfield, California
Fairfield is a city located in Solano County in Northern California, USA. It is generally considered the midpoint between the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, approximately from the city center of both cities, approximately from the city center of Oakland, less than from Napa Valley, 18...

, and Vacaville
Vacaville, California
Vacaville, California is a city located in the northeastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area in Solano County. The city is nearly half way between Sacramento and San Francisco on I-80. It sits approximately from Sacramento, and from San Francisco...

 are served by the Solano County Water Agency, which transports water from Lake Berryessa and moves it south along the Putah South Canal. Marin County has the Marin Municipal Water District
Marin Municipal Water District
The Marin Municipal Water District is the government agency that provides drinking water to southern and central Marin County, California. Chartered in 1912, it became California's first municipal water district...

 and the North Marin Water District.

Water rights


On more than one occasion, the California Supreme Court has noted that “[t]he scope and technical complexity of issues concerning water resource management are unequalled by virtually any other type of activity presented to the courts." An example of this complexity is demonstrated in the case of National Audubon Society v. Superior Court
National Audubon Society v. Superior Court
The case of National Audubon Society v. Superior Court was a key case in California highlighting the conflict between the public trust doctrine and appropriative water rights...

.

Water right
Water right
Water right in water law refers to the right of a user to use water from a water source, e.g., a river, stream, pond or source of groundwater. In areas with plentiful water and few users, such systems are generally not complicated or contentious...

s are divided in multiple ways. Water rights to surface water and underground sources are separate. Also, California recognizes four distinct types of water rights to surface water in its statutory and common law: pueblo, riparian, prior appropriation, and water reserved by the U.S. A fifth statutory right also provides area of origin watershed rights.

Pueblo water rights


California recognizes water rights granted to pueblos (settlements) under the Spanish and Mexican governments, prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

. Pueblos organized under the laws of Mexico or Spain have a water right to all streams and rivers flowing through the city and to all groundwater aquifers underlying the city. Pueblo water rights are superior to all riparian and appropriative rights and cannot be lost by a failure to assert an interest or use the water. In addition, the pueblo's claim expands with the needs of the city and may be used to supply the needs of areas that are later annexed to the city. Los Angeles and San Diego are the only original pueblos to exercise their pueblo water rights in the courts.

Riparian water rights


Under the riparian doctrine, "the owner of land has the right to divert the water flowing by his land for use upon his land, without regard to the extent of such use or priority in time." "[R]iparians on a stream system are vested with a common ownership such that in times of water shortage all riparians must reduce their usage proportionately." To accommodate gold mining, the doctrine of appropriation was incorporated into California water law.
Riparian rights, however, continue to be acquired through ownership of land contiguous to the watercourse.

Water rights by prior appropriation


“The appropriation doctrine confers upon one who actually diverts and uses water the right to do so provided that the water is used for reasonable and beneficial uses,” regardless of whether that person owns land contiguous to the watercourse. In addition, all appropriative rights are subordinate to riparians or earlier appropriators. In times of shortage riparians are entitled to fulfill their needs before appropriators are entitled to any use of the water. "And, as between appropriators, the rule of priority is 'first in time, first in right.'" Beginning in 1914, a statutory scheme has provided the exclusive method of acquiring appropriation rights through the California State Water Resources Control Board
California State Water Resources Control Board
The California State Water Resources Control Board is one of five branches of the California Environmental Protection Agency.-History:...

.

The modern system of prior appropriation water rights followed by California is characterized by five principles:
  1. Exclusive right is given to the original appropriator, and all following rights are conditional upon precedent rights.
  2. All rights are conditional upon beneficial use.
  3. Water may be used on riparian lands or non-riparian lands (i.e. water may be used on the land next to the water source, or on land removed from the water source)
  4. Diversion is permitted, regardless of the shrinkage of the river or stream.
  5. The right may be lost through non-use.

Beneficial use is defined as agricultural, industrial, or urban use. Environmental uses, such as maintaining body of water and the wildlife that use it, were not initially regarded as beneficial uses in some states but have been accepted in some areas.
Every water right is parameterized by an annual yield and an appropriation date. When a water right is sold, it maintains its original appropriation date.

Water reserved by the United States


Lands reserved by the United States government are accompanied by a corresponding reservation of water rights for as much water is needed to fulfill the purpose for which the reservation was made. Such reservations were made on behalf of native American tribes, national parks, monuments, and forests. Water rights reserved by the United States are defined by and controlled by federal law. And because reserved water rights are not riparian nor appropriative, they may conflict with state law.

Area of origin watershed rights


California provides communities and other water users within watersheds senior status over appropriative water rights in limited circumstances.

Area of origin water rights parallel pueblo water rights. In both cases, water is reserved for future growth of the local community. In other words, appropriations may be subject to a water rights claim from people/government in the area of origin. That later claim would be senior despite its temporal disconnect. As a result of its pueblo rights, Los Angeles has rights to all or almost all water from the Los Angeles River. In the same way, communities along major water sources such as the Sacramento River theoretically have senior water rights to support growth despite a downstream user holding otherwise senior appropriative water rights.

Area of origin laws were passed in reaction to the controversies related to Los Angeles diverting water from the Owens Valley. Despite being on the books for generations, the area of origin statutes were not used until 2000. In addition, there currently are no court opinions regarding area of origin watershed rights.

Predicted need for increased water supplies


It is projected that California’s population will be almost 50 million people in the year 2020. If the prediction comes true and there is no action to increase the water supply, the difference between water demand and supply would be between 2 and 6000000 acre.ft in the year 2020. Already, the effects of long-term drought in the Central Valley helped to push unemployment up to 40% in 2009, and agricultural revenue losses are almost $500 million.
Over the past 5 years California voters have approved $3 billion in bonds for water development and management. Many of these projects are incorporated in the CALFED Bay-Delta program, a federal-state program designed to reduce water supply conflicts. In August 2000 the state and federal governments approved the CALFED plan for water quality, water conservation and recycling, watershed administration, ecosystem re-establishment, delta levees, surface and groundwater storage, water transportation, and science. The plan has a 30-year implementation period and designed to incorporate changes in conditions and knowledge about the effects of specific projects. Stage 1 was initiated in 2000 and was designed as a 7-year program. The cost is estimated to be $8.7 billion. Stage 1 water yield within the next 7 to 10 years is estimated to be 2900000 acre.ft per year. As part of Stage 1, an Environmental Water Account was established through the purchase of 350000 acre.ft of water. The EWA is used to protect fish and other wildlife without reducing water allocations to farms and municipalities.

Disputes and controversies


The California Water Wars
California Water Wars
The California Water Wars were a series of conflicts between the city of Los Angeles, farmers and ranchers in the Owens Valley of Eastern California, and environmentalists. As Los Angeles grew in the late 1800s, it started to outgrow its water supply. Fred Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles, realized that...

, a struggle between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley for water rights, is one of the most well-known examples of the lengths people will go to in order to secure adequate water supplies. The city of Los Angeles bought 300000 acres (1,214.1 km²) of land in the Owens Valley, and thus obtained water rights for a good deal of the water there. The diverting of so much water from the valley transformed it from an agricultural valley into a dust bowl.

The O'Shaughnessy Dam
O'Shaughnessy Dam
The O'Shaughnessy Dam is a curved gravity dam on the Tuolumne River in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of California's Sierra Nevada. The dam is located in Yosemite National Park, and creates the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. It is named for former San Francisco chief engineer and the original chief engineer of...

 was the subject of controversy when it was reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco Bay Guardian
The San Francisco Bay Guardian is a free alternative newspaper published weekly in San Francisco, California. The paper is owned mostly by its publisher, Bruce B...

 that the city of San Francisco sold roughly 500 megawatts of power to the PG&E
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company , commonly known as PG&E, is the utility that provides natural gas and electricity to most of the northern two-thirds of California, from Bakersfield almost to the Oregon border...

, supposedly in violation of the Raker Act
Raker Act
The Raker Act was an act of the United States Congress that permitted building of the O'Shaughnessy Dam and flooding of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is named for John E. Raker, its chief sponsor...

, which specifies that because the source of water and power was on public land, no private profit could be gained from the dam. Whether or not the Raker Act is indeed being violated is still a matter of controversy.

The creation of so many dams in California in order to enact a pragmatic water supply program has been met with criticism from some environmentalists, who have decried the negative effects of dams on ecosystems, particularly on migratory fish populations.

California Water Documents


The California Water Documents collection in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library is a valuable online resource of archived materials related to California’s water history. Topics encompassed in the collection include: water quality, flood control, water distribution, water conservation, water usage, drought, and geology. Additionally, the collection has digitized materials relating to the creation and operation of both the Central Valley Project
Central Valley Project
The Central Valley Project is a Bureau of Reclamation federal water project in the U.S. state of California. It was devised in 1933 in order to provide irrigation and municipal water to much of California's Central Valley—by regulating and storing water in reservoirs in the water-rich northern...

 and the California State Water Project
California State Water Project
The California State Water Project, commonly known as the SWP , is the world's largest publicly built and operated water and power development and conveyance system. The SWP was designed and is operated by the California Department of Water Resources...

 as well as their component units. The items represented in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library are part of a larger collection entitled the Water Resources Collection in Special Collections at Claremont Colleges
Claremont Colleges
The Claremont Colleges are a prestigious American consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools of higher education located in Claremont, California, a city east of downtown Los Angeles...

’ Honnold/Mudd Library. The Water Resources Collection was started in the 1930s by Librarian Willis Holmes Kerr and Librarian and Claremont Colleges’ Trustee John Treanor. These librarians’ interest in California’s water problem led them to start collecting a variety of documents related to water history and usage from around the state. It includes reports of engineers, annual reports and minute books of boards of directors of water companies, documents of federal and state governments, promotional pamphlets, and newspaper clippings. Most of the documents focus on the water history from the first half of the 20th century, but there are additional, more recent publications included, which have been donated by Claremont Graduate University
Claremont Graduate University
Claremont Graduate University is a private, all-graduate research university located in Claremont, California, a city east of downtown Los Angeles...

 Professor Merrill Goodall. The California Water Documents collection is currently a work in progress at the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.

See also

  • Water Education Foundation
    Water Education Foundation
    The Water Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide unbiased, balanced information on water issues in California and the Southwestern United States....

  • California Department of Water Resources
    California Department of Water Resources
    The California Department of Water Resources , is a department within the California Natural Resources Agency. The Department of Water Resources is responsible for the State of California's management and regulation of water usage...

  • List of largest reservoirs of California

External links