California is one of the most hydrologically altered landscapes in the world. As water becomes ever more scarce and the human population continues to grow, that vast engineered system strains to meet the needs of people let alone the needs of nature. 

Water rights allocations far exceed actual surface water supply, and millions of wells tap groundwater to meet the increasing demands of farms and communities. As groundwater reservoirs are depleted they can in turn reduce surface flows – exacerbating a vicious cycle in which people and nature both lose. Rivers, wetlands and groundwater-dependent ecosystems are caught in this struggle for an increasingly limited resource. Nearly half of California’s roughly 4,000 freshwater species are considered vulnerable to extinction. Of the taxa that are found nowhere but California – our endemic freshwater biodiversity – 90 percent are at risk.

But there is hope. While it is impossible to return natural flows to most of California’s rivers and streams, we can – through science, technology, and innovative market tools – endeavor to deliver water when and where nature needs it most.

Groundwater

In a normal year, groundwater accounts for 40 percent of California’s water supply. That number jumps to 60… >>

Surface Flows

Californians have fundamentally altered many of the state’s rivers and streams with dams, pipes, and diversions, and the… >>

Science in Action

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science

Research for Impact

How do we design scientific research to have impact in the world?

Freshwater | Science

Restoring California’s Largest River

How can we restore large rivers and floodplains to benefit nature and people?

2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Aligning evidence generation and use across health, development, and environment

Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler, David Ameyaw, Mark E Borsuk, Diana Fletschner, Edward Game,, Daniel O Gilligan, Marc Jeuland, Gina Kennedy, Yuta J Masuda, Sumi Mehta, Nicholas Miller, Megan Parker, Carmel Pollino, Julie Rajaratnam, David Wilkie, Wei Zhang, Selena Ahmed, Oluyede C Ajayi, Harold Alderman, George Arhonditsis, Ines Azevedo, Ruchi Badola, Rob Bailis, Patricia Balvanera, Emily Barbour, Mark Bardini, David N Barton, Jill Baumgartner, Tim G Benton, Emily Bobrow, Deborah Bossio, Ann Bostrom, Ademola Braimoh, Eduardo Brondizio, Joe Brown, Benjamin P Bryant, Ryan SD Calder, Becky Chaplin-Kramer, Alison Cullen, Nicole DeMello, Katherine L Dickinson, Kristie L Ebi, Heather E Eves, Jessica Fanzo, Paul J Ferraro, Brendan Fisher, Edward A Frongillo, Gillian Galford, Dennis Garrity, Lydiah Gatere, Andrew P Grieshop, Nicola J Grigg, Craig Groves, Mary Kay Gugerty, Michael Hamm, Xiaoyue Hou, Cindy Huang, Marc Imhoff, Darby Jack, Andrew D Jones, Rodd Kelsey, Monica Kothari, Ritesh Kumar, Carl Lachat, Ashley Larsen, Mark Lawrence, Fabrice DeClerck, Phillip S Levin, Edward Mabaya, Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Robert I McDonald, Georgina Mace, Ricardo Maertens, Dorothy I Mangale, Robin Martino, Sara Mason, Lyla Mehta, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Barbara Merz, Siwa Msangi, Grant Murray, Kris A Murray, Celeste E Naude, Nathaniel K Newlands, Ephraim Nkonya, Amber Peterman, Tricia Petruney, Hugh Possingham, Jyotsna Puri, Roseline Remans, Lisa Remlinger, Taylor H Ricketts, Bedilu Reta, Brian E Robinson, Dilys Roe, Joshua Rosenthal, Guofeng Shen, Drew Shindell, Ben Stewart-Koster, Terry Sunderland, William J Sutherland, Josh Tewksbury, Heather Wasser, Stephanie Wear, Chris Webb, Dale Whittington, Marit Wilkerson, Heidi Wittmer, Benjamin DK Wood, Stephen Wood,, Joyce Wu, Gautam Yadama and Stephanie Zobrist

Although environmental conservation, human health, and sustainable development challenges are interconnected, approaches to these challenges and the evidence used remain disconnected. Creating integrated solutions across these sectors will require better alignment of the methods used to assess the problems and quantifying success. In this review,…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Economics | Publications & Reports

MarketLab: Where Economics and Finance Meet Conservation

Sarah Heard

We have an opportunity to apply the principles of economics and finance to demonstrate the value of conservation and create systems that incentivize the protection of nature at scale. In a changing climate, natural landscapes are extremely valuable for the benefits they provide to both…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Effects of cover crops on multiple ecosystem services: Ten meta-analyses of data from arable farmland in California and the Mediterranean

Gorm E. Shackelford, Rodd Kelsey, Lynn V. Dicks

As California and other major agricultural regions around the world tackle the challenge of increasing the sustainability of agriculture to improve environmental health, cover crops are increasingly viewed as an important practice to protect soils and contribute to climate change mitigation. In this analysis, the authors…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

First known survey of cannabis production practices in California

Houston Wilson, Hekia Bodwitch, Jennifer Carah, Kent Daane, Christy Getz, Theodore E. Grantham, Van Butsic

Cannabis has been an industry in the shadows for many decades and little studied. In partnership with U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Cooperative Extension, the Conservancy staff developed the first cannabis growers survey on cultivation practices in California. The goal of the survey was to understand…


2019 | Freshwater | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Insights into estuary habitat loss in the western United States using a new method for mapping maximum extent of tidal wetlands

Laura S. Brophy, Correigh M. Greene, Van C. Hare, Brett Holycross, Andy Lanier, Walter N. Heady, Kevin O’Connor, Hiroo Imaki, Tanya Haddad, Randy Dana

The authors of this study generated new maps of current and historical tidal wetlands in 450 estuaries throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. Using laser-mapping technology known as LIDAR combined with water elevation models, the team estimated that West Coast estuaries historically covered nearly 2 million acres.…


2019 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

Economic Tools to Achieve Groundwater Sustainability for Nature: Two Experimental Case Studies from California

Sandi Matsumoto, Melissa M. Rohde, Sarah Heard

Groundwater is a critical water supply around the world and is increasingly under threat from pumping that exceeds natural replenishment. Successful implementation of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) depends local agencies working with stakeholders to develop plans and implement projects that reduce groundwater use,…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Critical Species LookBook: A compendium of California's threatened and endangered species for sustainable groundwater management

Rohde MM, Seapy B, Rogers R, Castañeda X, editors

Plant and animal species can rely on groundwater directly or indirectly for water, nutrients, and stable temperatures. The Critical Species LookBook is a compendium of 84 state and federally listed species likely to rely on groundwater in California. This document provides groundwater-relevant information for each…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Rapid and Accurate Estimates of Streamflow Depletion Caused by Groundwater Pumping Using Analytical Depletion Functions

Samuel C. Zipper, Tom Gleeson, Ben Kerr, Jeanette K. Howard, Melissa M. Rohde, Jennifer Carah, Julie Zimmerman

Reductions in streamflow from groundwater pumping can negatively impact water users and aquatic ecosystems but are challenging to estimate due to the time and expertise required to develop numerical models often used in water management. This paper develops a new approach – a combination of…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) Report

Parker SS, Randall JM, Pauly GB, Li E, Brown BV, Cohen BS

This report is a product of the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) project. It provides details on why we conducted our analysis, how the partnership between the Museum and the Conservancy was formed, how our Core Team, Scientific Advisory Group, and Stakeholder Group…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Data

Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) data

Enjie Li, Sophie S. Parker, Gregory B. Pauly, John M. Randall, Brian V. Brown, Brian S. Cohen

This dataset is a product of the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) project, and demonstrates a new way to evaluate urban biogeography—patterns in the distribution of species across urban areas. The authors developed a hierarchical, quantitative method for classifying urban lands into different…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

An urban biodiversity assessment framework that combines an urban habitat classification scheme and citizen science data

Enjie Li, Sophie S. Parker, Gregory B. Pauly, John M. Randall, Brian V. Brown, Brian S. Cohen

This paper presents a new way to evaluate urban biogeography—patterns in the distribution of species across urban areas. The authors developed a hierarchical, quantitative method for classifying urban lands into different habitat types, and then used citizen-science data to assess each type’s biodiversity. This approach…


2019 | Freshwater | Technology | Science | Maps & Webmaps

GDE Pulse: Monitoring Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems with Satellites

Kirk Klausmeyer, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Nathaniel Rindlaub, Tanushree Biswas, Melissa M. Rohde, Jeanette Howard

94,333 unique ecosystems depend on groundwater in California. GDE Pulse lets you see how they have changed over the last 30 years.  Groundwater managers and environmental stakeholders often lack information about the health of critical groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs). To fill this information gap, we…


2019 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

SGMA's First Groundwater Market: An Early Case Study from Fox Canyon

Sarah Heard, E.J. Remson, Matthew Fienup, Siobhan King

In 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which regulates groundwater at scale for the first time, requiring the state’s largest source of stored water to be managed for long-term resilience. SGMA delegates the responsibility of achieving sustainable groundwater management by 2040 to…


2019 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Planning Foundation for Restoring Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and O. mykiss in the Stanislaus River

Prepared by Anchor QEA, LLC (John Ferguson, Elizabeth Greene, and Michelle L. Ratliff), Contributors and Participants: John Cain, Jon Rosenfield, Alison Weber-Stover, Stephen Louie, John Shelton, Tim Heyne, Brian Ellrott, Sierra Franks, Monica Gutierrez, Rhonda Reed, David Swank, Steve Edmundson, Katie Schmidt, Rachel Johnson, Jeanette Howard, Julie Zimmerman, Chris Carr, Daniel Worth, Rene Henery, Ron Yoshiyama, Joshua Israel, Paul Cadrett, Ramon Martin, and J.D. Wikert

Also view Appendix A: Stanislaus Survival Model and and other report Appendices.  


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

The dark side of facilitation: native shrubs facilitate exotic annuals more strongly than native annuals

Jacob E. Lucero, Taylor Noble, Stephanie Haas, Michael Westphal, H. Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

Previous work at the Carrizo Plain by this team in 2018 showed that native shrubs facilitated endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard populations, and should be considered part of plans for habitat restoration in the San Joaquin Valley. This paper shows that shrubs have a dark…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Clarifying Effects of Environmental Protections on Freshwater Flows to—and Water Exports from—the San Francisco Bay Estuary

Gregory J. Reis, Jeanette K. Howard, Jonathan A. Rosenfield

For years the narrative of the San Francisco Bay Delta has been driven by the contention that water use by agriculture was being limited by environmental regulation. Analyzing long-term trends regarding factors governing water exports in the Delta, researchers from The Bay Institute, The Nature…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Stream flow modeling tools inform environmental water policy in California

Theodore E. Grantham, Julie K. H. Zimmerman, Jennifer K. Carah, Jeanette K. Howard

Management of California’s vast water distribution network, involving hundreds of dams and diversions from rivers and streams, provides water to 40 million people and supports a globally prominent agricultural sector, but it has come at a price to local freshwater ecosystems. An essential first step…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Habitat restoration opportunities, climatic niche contraction, and conservation biogeography in California's San Joaquin Desert

Joseph A. E. Stewart, H. Scott Butterfield, Jonathan Q. Richmond, David J. Germano, Michael F. Westphal, Erin N. Tennant, Barry Sinervo

Due to limited water resources, there is a global trend toward the retirement of farmland, especially in the San Joaquin Valley in California where the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act could necessitate the retirement of more than 500,000 acres. This paper helps identify where, across the…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

San Diego County Ecosystems: Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on a Biodiversity Hotspot

Megan Jennings, Dan Cayan, Julie Kalansky, Amber Pairis, Alexandra Syphard, Rachel Clemesha, Alexander Gershunov, Kristen Guirguis, John Randall, Eric Stein, Sula Vanderplank, Shasta Gaughen