Sloughs (pronounced “slews”) are shallow lakes or swamps. Generally they serve as backwaters – or a stagnant part of a river – and are consequently located at edges of rivers where a stream or other canal once flowed.
Lester A. Snow, the mastermind behind countless water resources management projects, has been involved in water issues in two states, both the public and private sectors and on regional, state and federal levels of government.
In a timeline of his career, Snow served from 1988-1995 as the general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority after leaving the Arizona Department of Water Resources. From 1995-1999, he was the executive director of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, which included a team of both federal and state agencies.
Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.
The Stanislaus River empties into the San Joaquin from the east along with the Merced and Tuolumne rivers. Although some agricultural drainage flows into these rivers in their lower reaches, the water quality is relatively good in each of the three tributaries.
Liability for levee failure in California took a new turn after a court ruling found the state liable for hundreds of millions of dollars from the 1986 Linda Levee collapse in Yuba County. The levee failure killed two people and destroyed or damaged about 3,000 homes.
The collapse also had long-term legal ramifications.
The Paterno Decision
California’s Supreme Court found that, “when a public entity operates a flood management system built by someone else, it accepts liability as if it had planned and built the system itself.”
The State Water Project is an aquatic lifeline for California because of its vital role in bringing water to cities and farms. Without it, California would never have developed into the economic powerhouse it is.
The State Water Project diverts water from the Feather River to the Central Valley, South Bay Area and Southern California. Its key feature is the 444-mile long California Aqueduct that can be viewed from Interstate 5.
Ron Stork, the award-winning policy director of the Friends of the River, joined the statewide California river conservation group in 1987 as its associate conservation director. Previously he was executive director of the Merced Canyon Committee, where he directed the successful effort to obtain the National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Merced River.
For all the benefits of precipitation, stormwater also brings with it many challenges.
In urban areas, after long dry periods rainwater runoff can contain heavy accumulations of pollutants that have built up over time. For example, a rainbow like shine on a roadway puddle can indicate the presence of oil or gasoline. Stormwater does not go into the sewer. Instead, pollutants can be flushed into waterways with detrimental effects on the environment and water quality.
The Suisun Marsh is the largest contiguous brackish water wetland in western North America, providing food and habitat for thousands of migratory birds and many species of plants, fish and wildlife. The combination of tidal wetlands, diked seasonal wetlands, sloughs and upland grassland comprises more than 10 percent of the remaining wetlands in California.
The marsh is where fresh water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta meets salt water from San Francisco Bay.
The story of California’s surface water— water that remains on the earth’s surface, in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs or oceans—is one that reflects the state’s geographic complexity.
About 75 percent of California’s surface water supply originates in the northern third of the state, but around 80 percent of water demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state. And the demand for water is highest during the dry summer months when there is little natural precipitation or snowmelt.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
When fully implemented, SGMA is expected to effectively administer groundwater pumping, though it remains to be seen if some of the damage done to aquifers is irreparable. Without SGMA, however, there is no hope for management.
Sustainability is defined as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In its 2013 Water Plan Update, DWR notes that “a sustainable system or process has longevity and resilience … manages risk but cannot eliminate it … generally provides for the economy, the ecosystem, and social equity.”