Securing long-term water sustainability is one of the most important tasks faced by California.
From the 2016 California Water Action Plan:
There is broad agreement that the state’s water management system is currently unable to satisfactorily meet both ecological and human needs, too exposed to wet and dry climate cycles and natural disasters, and inadequate to handle the additional pressures of future population growth and climate change. Solutions are complex and expensive, and they require the cooperation and sustained commitment of all Californians working together. To be sustainable, solutions must strike a balance between the need to provide for public health and safety (e.g., safe drinking water, clean rivers and beaches, flood protection), protect the environment, and support a stable California economy.
Sites Reservoir is an innovative and modern water storage project that goes well beyond water supply and flood protection by adding flexibility—and generating a much-needed new water source—for seasonal fish flows, improved water quality, water cool enough to sustain salmon, climate change and drought relief.
Sites Reservoir is a local project, being developed by a consortium of local agencies who are motivated to build local water sustainability and to do so in a way that helps the state meet its overall water system needs. This foundational philosophy makes Sites Reservoir a storage project that benefits both California’s environment and its economy.
Sites Reservoir is an off-stream reservoir that will:
- Restore operational flexibility to the State’s water system
- Meet the co-equal goals identified in the 2009 Delta Reform Act
- Dedicate water for fishery and flow purposes
- Contribute flows for water quality purposes
- Mitigate the effects of climate change
- Contribute to the State’s renewable energy goals
Why is “off-stream” so important?
Reservoirs of the past were built by damming across naturally flowing rivers to hold the water back, and drowning the river and its ecosystem in the process. Off-stream means that Sites Reservoir will not dam, or in any way impede, any river or streambed. In fact, Sites Reservoir will provide dramatic benefits to the ecosystem.
If Sites Reservoir had been online in 2015, an additional 240,000 acre-feet of cold water would have been available to support critical salmon migrations. In dry and critical years, Sites Reservoir will provide an additional 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet of cold-water pools to help critically endangered Salmon and improve water quality conditions.
- Groundwater sustainability requires effective groundwater recharge. Sites Reservoir can help store and then move water where and when it’s needed for recharge projects.
- Salmon need cold water to survive in the late summer and fall. If water for agriculture and Delta water quality came from Sites Reservoir, cold water pools in Shasta and Oroville could be preserved.
- If Sites Reservoir had been in place in 2016, about 500,000 acre-feet could have been captured and stored—a much-needed boost to overall state water supplies in the middle of our historic drought.
- Climate change is creating a new normal: less snow-pack and flashier rainfall. Sites Reservoir is ideally located to maximize the capture and storage of rain.