The Sacramento Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan: Meeting Northern California Water Needs into the Future
Northern California water suppliers in partnership with local governments, environmental representatives and state and federal agencies continue to refine an “Integrated Regional Water Management Plan for the Sacramento Valley” (Regional Plan). The Regional Plan is designed to protect Northern California water rights and supplies and it will serve as a roadmap for present and future generations to provide water for farms, cities, birds, fish and recreation.
To fully appreciate the value of integrated planning in Northern California, it is important to consider the region in the proper hydrologic context. Under natural conditions, water in the Sacramento River and its various tributaries and watersheds flows south past the Capitol to the San Francisco Bay-Delta and then to the ocean. Since the late 1800s, leaders throughout the Sacramento Valley secured a variety of water rights and contracts and invested significant financial and personal capital so that water supplies can either be diverted or stored for use in Northern California. These water rights and supplies are the socio-economic foundation for Northern California and are an effective tool to meet the various environmental values in the region. The Regional Plan builds upon these water rights and calls on various strategies to actively manage these supplies so that water is available for all needs in Northern California – both now and into the future.
Central to the Regional Plan are the major efforts underway to improve and enhance water supplies, water quality and the environment for the area-of-origin in Northern California. Many water right holders in the Sacramento Valley serve water for family farms and ranches, which in addition to socio-economic benefits, provide open space and habitat for waterfowl, geese and waterbirds along the Pacific Flyway. Water right holders also assure high quality drinking water for citizens throughout the region. Many water right holders also serve water to their neighbors, including six National Wildlife Refuges in the Sacramento Valley and numerous state and privately managed wetlands in the Valley. This water supports important habitat for the annual migration of waterfowl. Additionally, water right holders in the Sacramento Valley have invested in numerous fish enhancement projects in the past decade that have led fishery advocates to proclaim that “The Sacramento River run [of salmon] has been an Endangered Species Act success story.”
Water right holders in Northern California recognize and take very seriously the tremendous responsibility to assure reliable and affordable water supplies for Northern California. Most importantly, they are committed to the economic and environmental well-being of the region. They recognize that, without these water rights and contracts and the active management of the water supplies, water will leave the region. As a result, water suppliers are aggressively working and partnering with landowners and local governments throughout the region and with various environmental organizations to assure the efficient use of water and to explore new ways to provide water and enhance habitat for waterfowl and fish. As part of a broader strategy to protect water rights, water suppliers have also partnered with entities outside the region to help meet water quality objectives and to help provide short-term water supplies during certain years.
We hope that citizens throughout Northern California will join the positive efforts to further develop and refine the Regional Plan to help assure reliable water supplies for Northern California, both now and into the future. A current version of the draft Regional Plan can be viewed at www.norcalwater.org. We would welcome comments at this site or by calling NCWA at 916.442.8333.