It is difficult to identify the players without a scorecard. Here we attempt to explain terms and identify organizations involved in Northern California water issues. If there is something you would like to have covered (or corrected) contact us at

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acre-foot: the amount of water required to cover one acre to a depth of one foot, an acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, or 43,560 cubic feet. A flow of 1 cubic foot per second produces 1.98 acre-feet per day. Old news stories reported that one acre foot was sufficient to serve a family of four for a year. Perhaps because of conservation those estimates have changed to 2 (or even 3) families per year.

adjudication: a court proceeding to determine all rights to the use of water on a particular stream system or ground water basin.

aquifer: a geologic formation that will yield water to a well in sufficient quantities to make the production of water from this formation feasible for beneficial use; permeable layers of underground rock or sand that hold or transmit groundwater below the water table.

aquitard: a zone of earth material that will hold water but not transmit it fast enough to be pumped, or that forms a confining layer through which little water moves is called an aquitard (or aquiclude). Clay soils, shale, and igneous or metamorphic rocks with little interconnected porosity and or fractures are likely to form aquitards.

artesian: a geologic formation (or well) in which water is under sufficient hydrostatic pressure to be discharged to the surface without pumping.


BBWUA: Butte Basin Water Users is an association formed in 1992 by water districts in Butte County, California Water Service, Butte County and B-SBAGU to fund a groundwater model created by Hydrological Consultants, Inc. of Sacramento.

BMO: Basin Management Objectives; an ordinance adopted by the Butte County Board of Supervisors to establish a local framework for groundwater management.

Butte County Water Commission: was established as a result of the adoption of Measure G by voters in 1999 adopting Chapter 33 of the County Code.

B-SBAGU: Butte-Sutter Basin Area Groundwater Users is an association set up in 1992 to provide information and representation for private domestic well owners and farmers dependent on groundwater.


CFS (cubic feet per second): the rate of discharge or flow representing a volume of one cubic foot passing a given point during 1 second. This rate is equivalent to approx. 7.48 gallons per second, or 1.98 acre-feet per day.

California Water Plan Update (1)- “A Framework for Action” California Department of Water Resources Bulletin 160, December 2005 (an enormous pdf file)

Cal Water: (California Water Service Company) a subsidiary of the California Water Service Group is the largest investor-owned American water utility west of the Mississippi River and the second largest in the country. Formed in 1926, the San Jose-based company serves 500,000 customers through 28 Customer and Operations Centers throughout the state and is. Cal Water pumps approx. 36,000 acre feet/year from the Lower Tuscan Aquifer. Butte County customers represent about 14% of Cal Water’s total customer base.

Conjunctive management: integrated management and use of two or more water resources, such as an aquifer and a surface water body.


delta: an alluvial deposit made of rock particles (sediment, and debris) dropped by a stream as it enters a body of water. In California, The Delta was created at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers where they entered into the San Francisco Bay.

DWR: California Department of Water Resources



fallowing: to take land out of production. Fallowing can be part of a crop rotation plan, but is rare now. In the arid west that may mean that any withheld water is then available for another use, such as a transfer. When fallowing is used to transfer allocated water to other users, the grower is required to withhold irrigation water from a field, usually for an entire irrigation season. Provided that the grower would, in fact, have irrigated in the absence of the transfer, fallowing produces real water, but not new water; fallowing merely frees up an existing water supply for use elsewhere. The DWR Northern District monitors and documents those lands that are to be fallowed for any given year that water transfers are implemented.


GCID (b) Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District is located on the west side of the Sacramento River in Glenn and Colusa Counties and supplies irrigation water to members from a diversion from the Sacramento River north of Hamilton City.

GCID’s IRWMP: (c.) “Regional Integration of the Lower Tuscan Groundwater Formation into the Sacramento Valley Surface Water System”.

groundwater: water within the earth that supplies wells and springs: water in the zone of saturation where all openings in rocks and soil are filled, the upper surface of which forms the water table. Ground water discharge is any process that removes ground water from an aquifer. Included is natural discharge from a spring that is present where water flowing in an aquifer intersects the surface of the earth. Spring discharge can form the beginning of a stream or river. See also: aquifer, recharge



IRWMP: Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Such plans are being encouraged in the latest California Water Plan.


JEP: Joint Exercise of Powers

JEPA: Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement





Natural Heritage Institute: NHI is self-described as "a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1989 by a group of experienced conservation lawyers and scientists who foresaw the need for a toolkit for the next era of environmental problem solving".

NCWA: Northern California Water Association was formed in 1992 to enhance and preserve the water rights and supplies of it’s members, mostly surface water districts and water suppliers.






Recharge: Ground water recharge is any process that adds water to an aquifer and can be natural infiltration or human induced, like leakage from a broken water line, from spreading ponds or injection.


Sacramento Valley Water Management Agreement (SVWMA) (4) This agreement was signed by more than 40 surface water suppliers in December 2002 as an alternative to participating in adversarial State Water Resources Control Board Phase 8 Bay-Delta Water Rights hearings. Phases 1-7 had resulted in some loss of water rights. The agreement established a process by which the parties collaborate in development of water management projects to increase the availability of Sacramento Valley water (including groundwater) to help meet the 1995 Water Quality Control Plan, as well as additional export needs.

SWRCB: State Water Resources Control Board


Third-party impacts: Loss of income and/or loss of irrigation (the economic and/or physical effects on others as a result of water transfers or sales between two parties, both of whom receive some benefit (i.e. money in exchange for water).


USGS: United State Geological Survey



Water table: see groundwater

well log: a record kept at the time of drilling showing the depth, thickness, character of the different strata penetrated, location of water-bearing strata, depth, size and character of casing installed.


xeriscape: creative landscaping for water and energy efficiency and lower maintenance in dry climates. Xeriscape principles are: good planning & design; practical lawn areas; efficient irrigation; soil improvement; use of mulches; low water demand plants; good maintenance.