Tracking California's Water

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Detailed Description

This short video is one of a series of four total shorts highlighting USGS water science in California's Delta region. California is experiencing a drought, surface water, rainfall, groundwater and snowpack have been at historic lows. This shortage is impacting water users and natural systems across the state. USGS scientists are gathering a variety of vital water data in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta which is the hub of the state's water system. 


Date Taken:

Length: 00:02:48

Location Taken: Sacramento, CA, US


Recently, California has been experiencing a severe drought.  

Surface water, rainfall, groundwater and snowpack have been at historic lows.  

Climate forecasts indicate that drought conditions may continue here through this century.  Less available water will have consequences for all citizens of California for nature and for vital industry including agriculture.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a major hub of California's water system supplying water for over twenty-five million water users in the state and for the Central Valley which grows a quarter of our nation's produce.

The Delta is also habitat for threatened and endangered including Delta Smelt and Chinook Salmon, which depend on fresh water flows. 

During a drought there are many competing needs for too little water.  

When surface water is scarce, some farmers have turned to increased groundwater pumping to continue growing their crops.  This can cause aquifers to compact and the land to subside.

Compaction reduces how much backup water supply might be stored for use during future droughts an important water banking tool for sustainable water management. 

Detailed scientific data collected and processed by scientists are crucial to managing 

Across California and throughout the Delta the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners are using state-of-the-art technology to track available water and the impacts of drought. 

They're measuring stream flow volumes and the amount of water underground in aquifers, and where land subsidence is occurring and how severe the problem is.

A network of streamgages, -- hundreds of sensors, -- satellite transmission, -- and experienced field crews accomplish this work.
These reliable data can be compared to vital past records because they've been  collected, archived, and interpreted over years -- even decades. 

This record of water data is an essential tool that helps water operations managers make decisions on surface water deliveries and sustainably manage water for all uses.  

Want to know more about tracking water supplies during California's drought?

Why not start with science.