Changing how we think about and manage water in California.
California's current system of water right administration frequently fails to protect water users as well as salmon and steelhead, and it discourages innovative efforts to restore and protect stream flows. Traditionally, water diverters have been regulated individually, if at all, with little regard to how their actions relate to other diversions in the area or contribute to cumulative impacts on the stream.
There is a better way. Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration (CEMAR ) are attacking this dysfunction head-on through the Coastal Streamflow Stewardship Project (CSSP).
Innovative and Durable Solutions that Benefit Fish and Water Users.
Through CSSP, TU and CEMAR are selecting and assessing 4-6 coastal watersheds from Northern California down to the Santa Barbara area, and working with landowners in those pilot watersheds to develop water management tools and identify projects to protect and reconnect stream flow – including coordinating diversions and implementing rotation schedules, storing winter water for summer use, and improving irrigation efficiency.
CSSP pushes restoration beyond physical projects: the new approach includes establishing benchmarks based on local stream characteristics and habitat dynamics, installing instruments to track actual conditions, and cooperatively managing diversions to achieve better (and more cost-effective) results than any water user could achieve alone.
Policy, permitting, and scientific models for use across California.
Trout Unlimited and CEMAR are working with partners in these pilot watersheds:
Graphs of water levels recorded by stream gauge on the Mattole can be viewed here .
On the Ground Results
Our efforts are already bearing fruit. In Grape Creek, we helped a grape grower develop an offstream storage pond for rainy-season water as an alternative to summertime irrigation via a streamside well. Then this year we and our partners in the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership  helped another grape grower switch from direct diversions for frost protection to the use of a fan.
Through our efforts, the new North Coast Instream Flow Policy (A.B. 2121) now includes specific incentives for irrigators to shift from harmful summertime diversions to easier to manage off-stream ponds. The change will enable faster water right processing for streamflow enhancement projects. Cumulative effects models developed by CEMAR staff can predict how these projects will affect streamflow during winter and how they could benefit flows in summer prior to their implementation.
Thank you to the funders and partners of the Coastal Streamflow Stewardship Project: