Tule Story

Researchers examine tule reeds and rice fields in the Delta

On Twitchell Island, near the Delta town of Isleton, tules covering 15 acres grow twice as tall as the average man. A gravel road separates the wetlands from a cornfield, sunken 25 feet at its lowest point. Every year, the wetlands’ soil rises a few inches, while the cornfield sinks. The discovery that tules increase land elevation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is fueling a joint experiment conducted by the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey, along with UC Davis researchers, other universities and private consultants.

Dec 1, 2009 Joanna Corman
Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, says that desalination should be part of the state's water solution, however, "You don't solve the problem by shifting it from one ecosystem to another."

(Photo: Jill Wagner)

Salt of the Dearth

The role of desalination in California's water crisis

If Sir Isaac Newton were around today to assess California’s interest in seawater desalination, he would likely reference his own third law of motion, which in simple terms states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In short, as our water supply dwindles, the desire to glean freshwater from salty oceans and brackish groundwater is growing.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Elk Slough, near the Delta town of Clarksburg

Peripheral Vision

Can state and federal officials agree on comprehensive reform before it's too late?

For centuries, the biggest environmental concern for most California water users was how to squeeze every last drop from nature. While a wet year might shift concerns to flood control, grab-as-grab-can gusto came back almost as soon as the waters receded. But that was then. Today, environmental concerns are center stage in the state’s ongoing effort to reform its water system.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Work continues on the four-phase, $400 million project that will fix 29 miles, or 90 percent, of Yuba County's levees.

Ring of Mire

Yuba doesn't wait for the feds to tackle flood protection

Yuba County officials knew they couldn’t rely on federal money to improve their levees. Historically, the federal government has provided the bulk of money for flood protection, but it can take 10 to 20 years to receive it. So Yuba County, a mostly agricultural county of nearly 73,000 people 30 miles north of Sacramento, developed a plan to fund levee improvements itself.

Nov 1, 2009 Joanna Corman

Delta Vision

Phil Isenberg on the state's water policy

Phil Isenberg, a longtime environmental advocate and former Sacramento mayor and state assemblyman, will lead the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. We sat down with him recently to talk about the state’s efforts to bring its water system into the 21st century.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Alfalfa fields near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Steamboat Slough.

Spending Water Like Money

When conservation alone can't solve the state's water problems

For many environmentalists and residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the solution to California’s water supply sounds brilliant in its simplicity: Use less than we do now, particularly in areas of the state that have precious little of their own to begin with, thereby eliminating the need for spending billions of dollars on new water storage. But don’t try selling that idea to the bulk of California’s most powerful water stakeholders, many of whom contend that all the low-flow toilets and drip irrigation systems in the world won’t mean much without more dams and reservoirs to capture water during wet years and reap the benefits in dry times.

Oct 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen

Water Wars

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

For nearly 50 years California boasted the nation’s largest, most successful water system. Water flowed through the Gov. Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct to San Joaquin Valley farms and southern California homes.

Oct 1, 2009 Winnie Comstock-Carlson