Sac River Watershed Blog

  • Oct 13, 2015

    Severe drought conditions are negatively impacting our state’s natural and financial resources. A recent report by the California Endowment revealed the hidden community-level impacts of the drought and highlighted nonprofits, “many organizations struggle to keep up with demand and need more funding to increase drought-related programs and build capacity.” Not only are funds for drought-related efforts stretched thin, funding priorities have understandably changed as wells run dry and dead fish lie in dry creek beds. Drought-related challenges have the potential to threaten in-region water resources and now more than ever, communities need help in developing a better understanding of state and federal issues related to and affecting their watershed resources.

    SRWP was established in 1996 as an effort to bring stakeholders together to address all water-related issues -- including drought -- within the Sacramento River Watershed. We have served as a forum for watershed stakeholders to share information, measure cumulative progress, and maintain a shared vision of the watershed.

    In 2014, we held the 6th Annual State of the Sacramento River Watershed Forum and the 2014 Annual Stakeholder Meeting along with smaller conferences, workshops, and meetings featuring updates on statewide and regional topics. Our 2014 Annual Stakeholder Meeting at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room in Chico was a huge success, attended by more than 60 representatives concerned with resource conditions within the Sacramento River watershed. On Tuesday October 27th, SRWP will hold the 2015 Annual Stakeholder Meeting and Watershed Forum in Sacramento at the Sierra Health Foundation along the Sacramento River. This event is an opportunity for stakeholders to receive information on issues affecting the Sacramento River watershed, share updates, ideas and opportunities, and hear about and provide input on efforts to support watershed management.

    The Sacramento River Watershed provides drinking water for residents of northern and southern California, irrigation water for agriculture, and habitat for hundreds of wildlife species. It is also the home of more than 2 million northern Californians. The majority of the watershed is rural and often lacks the information, technical expertise, or other community resources required to be effective in addressing local concerns and issues. Now is the time to invest in the organizations serving our rural communities. By partnering with locally-based organizations throughout the region, SRWP serves as an information clearinghouse, neutral partner, and a source for fact-based information and education to be used at the State and federal level to address our region’s needs .

    There are a number of ways to support SRWP’s efforts — providing administrative and/or technical assistance, participating in this year’s Annual Stakeholder Meeting and Watershed Forum, and providing financial assistance. Securing sponsors is especially important this year as we face the challenges of doing even more with less. Sponsorship brings increased visibility to your business, demonstrates an investment to the community, and shows a commitment to SRWP — a respected program aimed at improving the health of the Sacramento River Watershed. Your support demonstrates a vote of confidence in our mission and goals aimed at resolving watershed issues with local participation and a watershed-wide perspective.

  • May 31, 2015

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    SRWP will be adapting the OpenNRM Open Source Software Project to create a web portal customized for the Sacramento River watershed. The portal will give users access to the extensive water monitoring data, studies, reports and articles on the Sacramento River watershed. Users will be able to compile maps and graphs to better visualize available data and answer questions about the watershed.

    Over the next few months, SRWP will engage key stakeholders to design, create, promote and maintain the  portal. The collective knowledge of key stakeholders will be applied to articulate management questions, access relevant information, and develop a web portal that provides the best available insight about water quality conditions in the Sacramento River Watershed.

    The above photo shows the OpenNRM portal adapted for the San Joaquin River at http://sanjoaquinrivermonitoring.com/.

    You can read more about this project here.

  • Mar 03, 2015

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    In 2014, as one of the approaches developed during our strategic planning sessions, SRWP will embark on a renewed effort to expand on and develop new partnerships titled the Partnership Initiative. The key purpose of the Partnership Initiative will be to discuss and identify key concerns within the watershed along with potential management actions. We are currently developing a list of key stakeholders to meet with and a list of talking points and will begin scheduling meetings in the spring of 2014. We’ll concurrently meet with potential investors and develop a list of priority actions based on their feasibility. Similar to the Sierra Fund’s Integrated Sierra Investment Strategy, we’ll explore how public and private conservation investments can be organized to best protect and restore the natural resources of the Sacramento River watershed.

    Numerous groups and agencies are working to protect and improve their portion of the Sacramento River Watershed. SRWP recognizes that partnerships can be very effective in advancing and improving policies and programs. We strive to support and enhance the efforts of local watershed partners through a more unified organization and voice. We work to ensure that local management programs have a “seat at the table” and are represented in important regional and statewide policies and programs. SRWP worked with local groups and agencies throughout the year to share information and opportunities for collaborating to leverage resources and minimize duplicate efforts.

    This article originally appeared in the SRWP 2013 Annual Summary and Report.

  • Mar 03, 2015

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    By Todd Sloat, SRWP Trustee and resident of the Headwaters

    Discussion on the importance of the headwater areas within the Sacramento River Watershed is often relegated to the tail end of conversations. About 90% of the population in the watershed resides within the Sacramento Valley, yet it’s the headwater areas that produce nearly all the watershed’s wood products (e.g. lumber, wood shavings, posts and poles), electricity, and water. It would be difficult to imagine how the residents and producers in the Sacramento Valley would survive if the adjacent land mass was the Nevada desert rather that the majestic Sierra or southern Cascades.

    Watershed health and the transport of water down to valley areas may be the least appreciated service provided by source water areas. In times of drought — such as the last several years — a functional watershed becomes even more important: California’s water storage, in terms of snowpack, is almost entirely in the headwaters.

    Like water, sediment flows downhill naturally from gravitational forces, largely brought with water flows. The amount and rate of sedimentation is greatly affected by the health of the upland areas (e.g. forests, meadows, and grasslands). Catastrophic wildfires, occurring more often in the past decade from climate change and the longer dry season, denude the forest of vegetation and create higher sedimentation rates than would occur if the forest structure was healthy and more resilient. Watershed function depends on the connectivity of ground and surface water flow, the uptake and release of water by meadows and grasslands, and the health of the soil and biota throughout the watershed.

    Rural economies are facing difficult times. Dependent upon resource development and extraction, these economies have changed significantly since the 1960s and 70s, and the lumber mills that supported so many communities have closed or are facing shrinking budgets, thus shrinking the workforce. Mills once were common in small rural towns throughout the southern Cascades and the Sierra Nevada, but today it is more common to find abandoned mill sites than active ones.

    The lack of active forest management makes it challenging to reverse the negative effects that fire suppression has had on forest health. There are essentially two choices for overstocked forests: 1) letting the forest burn through prescribed fire (requiring manpower and budgets) or accidental, catastrophic fire; or 2) mechanically removing wood volume and biomass to reduce fire fuels. The latter choice can add jobs to the region, resulting in energy production via biomass plants, and mitigating massive greenhouse gas emissions and negative effects on the watershed from catastrophic wildfires.

    People visit the headwaters to recreate, find open space, and seek a place to rest and refuel. There are efforts afoot to ensure that all Californians understand the importance of the headwaters to their quality of life including Carpe Diem’s Healthy Headwaters Program, the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association’s Sierra Nevada Headwater Policy Principles and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative. California’s headwaters should be protected, enhanced, and maintained for all future generations within the watershed.

    This article originally appeared in the SRWP 2013 Annual Summary and Report.