Reimagining our Water System: Sites Reservoir as 21st Century Infrastructure

Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019

The Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and water leaders in Northern California have appreciated the opportunity to engage with the Newsom Administration and our many partners to help develop and then implement a water resilience portfolio (portfolio) that meets the needs of California’s communities, economy, and environment through the 21st century.”

Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.

In addition to natural infrastructure (see our earlier blog), there are opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to add value to the existing water system with modern, 21st century infrastructure. This new style of infrastructure is very different than the last century and is particularly important to provide climate resiliency and water management flexibility for the region and the state as a whole by enhancing capabilities to serve water for multiple benefits during drier years.

As Sacramento Valley water resources managers look to serve multiple benefits in the future, the importance and need for Sites Reservoir becomes clear. Sites Reservoir is an innovative 21st century water project: an off-stream regulating reservoir on the west-side of the Sacramento Valley that can store water for the future by capturing it during high runoff periods, and then releasing it for various beneficial uses at a later time. With its location upstream of the Delta and near the Sacramento River, water in Sites reservoir would serve multiple benefits in the Sacramento Valley, as well as the Delta and the rest of the state.

California has other striking examples of off-stream reservoirs that have added value to their region and the state. Examples include Diamond Valley Lake in Southern California and Los Vaqueros Reservoir in the Bay Area. The recent dry years have shown the value off-stream storage provides California communities and regional water management.

Sites Reservoir would be a dramatic enhancement to California’s water system and the first storage project in California with a dedicated supply for the environment. This facility would provide multiple benefits to improve aquatic habitat conditions and withstand dry year conditions.  This reservoir would be operated to accommodate and address the uncertainties created by a changing climate and improve environmental and water supply system resilience. Sites Reservoir can provide a freshwater ecosystem water budget (see the earlier blog) that would help provide flexibility and make water available during drier years–which would help ensure water availability for the ecosystem. Most importantly, Sites Reservoir would significantly improve the state’s water management system in drier periods and restore much needed flexibility and reliability that has been lost in the system. Sites is one of the best opportunities to re-imagine our water system in the 21st century and add value to our current water system by providing high-quality water to enhance natural infrastructure, the environment, public safety, the economy and quality of life for Californians.

For more details, please click on the document below.

Our blog on 21st Century Infrastructure is part of a series that presents our ideas on the critical elements for a water resilience portfolio from a Sacramento River Basin perspective. Through this series, we are seeking your thoughts and ideas (see below) that will help the Sacramento River Basin provide meaningful contributions to the water resilience portfolio and the actions that will help advance a 21st Century water management system for California. We use the principles in the Governor’s Executive Order as the starting point for our discussions and offer these ideas as a roadmap for resilience we believe will add value to California’s water management system. We welcome additional ideas and thoughts to make these contributions more effective. Please provide any thoughts or ideas to

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