Sierra Water Trust
The rivers of the Sierra Nevada form an immense natural and engineered water supply network that provides 60 percent of California’s water supply. They also support diverse and complex habitats, which has resulted in the Sierra Nevada ranking as the world’s most ecologically rich region in terms of native aquatic invertebrates. However, most Sierra rivers have impaired water quality and almost two-thirds of the region’s 67 aquatic habitat types are declining in quality and abundance.
Although powerful tools exist for land conservation including land use regulation, zoning, conservation easements, public ownership, and out-right purchase of key parcels, conservation tools for aquatic systems are lagging.
American Rivers, Natural Heritage Institute, Sierra Nevada Alliance, and several local watershed organizations and stakeholders initiated an effort to improve water quality and increase aquatic function and biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada Region through implementation of the Sierra Water Trust Project. The overarching objectives of the project were to build the capacity of Sierra-based organizations to use water rights acquisition as a tool for stream restoration; improve capacity of Sierra organizations to examine watershed problems in a broader hydrologic context; and facilitate the use of river science in monitoring and managing water availability and use in Sierra streams.
This program was made possible with financial assistance provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Targeted Watershed Program, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and the Compton Foundation with matching funds and in-kind assistance provided by project partners.
Stream Flow Data & Resources
- USGS Water Data for the Nation
- Surface-Water Techniques: On Demand Training Opportunities
- Video: A Guide for Field Identification of Bankfull Stage in the Western United States
Water Transfers and Acquisitions in California
- California Department of Water Resources: Water Transfer FAQ’s
- Trust for Public Land: California Water Acquisition Handbook
Methods for Determining Instream Flow Need
- Colorado Water Conservation Board R2Cross
- The Nature Conservancy: Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration
- USGS PHABSIM
- USGS Instream Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM)
- US Forest Service: Quantifying Channel Maintenance Instream Flows (PDF)
General Instream Flow Resources
- Instream Flow Council
- Global Environmental Flows Network
- The World Bank: Basin Management – Environmental Flows
- A Guide Water Transfers (PDF)
- Adaptation to Natural Flow Regimes (PDF)
- Basic Principles and Ecological Consequences of Altered Flow Regimes for Aquatic Biodiversity (PDF)
- Ecologically Sustainable Water Management: Managing River Flows for Ecological Integrity (PDF)
- Water Transfer Issues in California (PDF)
- A Transactions Cost Approach to the Theoretical Foundations of Water Markets (PDF)
- Water Markets and Freshwater Ecosystem Services: Policy Reform and Implementation in the Columbia and Murray Darling Basins (PDF)
- The Natural Flow Regime (PDF)
- Instream Flow Marketing in the Pacific Northwest (PDF)
- How Much Water does a River Need (PDF)