The Sacramento River Hydrologic Region (see Figure SR-1 includes the entire California drainage area of the Sacramento River (the state’s largest river) and its tributaries. The region extends from Chipps Island in Solano County north to Goose Lake in Modoc County. It is bounded by the Sierra Nevada on the east, the Coast Ranges on the west, the Cascade and Trinity mountains on the north, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) on the south. The Sacramento River Basin actually begins in Oregon, north of Goose Lake, a near-sink that intercepts the Pit River drainage at the California-Oregon border.
Some key issues for this region are summarized here and discussed further later in this report.
Agriculture. Between 2005 and 2010, the region supported about 1.95 million acres of irrigated agriculture on average. Approximately 1.58 million acres is irrigated on the valley floor. The surrounding mountain valleys add about 370,000 irrigated acres to the region’s total — primarily as pasture and alfalfa. The gross value of agricultural production in the Sacramento Valley for 2011 was about $4.1 billion (California Department of Food and Agriculture 2013). Rice and walnuts are the highest grossing crops in the region followed by almonds and tomatoes. The direct, indirect, and induced effects of the agricultural industry to the regional economy are discussed in this report.
Groundwater. With a 2005-2010 average annual extraction volume of 2.7 million acre-feet (maf), groundwater pumping in the Sacramento River Hydrologic Region accounts for 17 percent of all the groundwater extraction in California — the third highest among the 10 hydrologic regions in California, behind Tulare Lake Hydrologic Region with 38 percent and San Joaquin River Hydrologic Region with 19 percent of the total. Overall, groundwater contributes to about 31 percent of the total water supply. Most groundwater extraction in the region occurs for agricultural water use (2.4 maf), meeting about one-third of agricultural water demands. Groundwater extraction for urban water use is significantly less (465 thousand acre-feet [taf]), which meets about half of the urban water needs. Groundwater levels for much of the region have declined from 2005 to 2010. Groundwater level declines ranging from 20 to 30 feet are seen in the northwestern portion of the Sacramento Valley Groundwater Basin. Declines ranging from to 10 to 20 feet are seen in the northern, the mid- to south-western, and the southeastern portions of the valley. For the rest of the Sacramento Valley Groundwater Basin and the Redding Area Groundwater Basin, groundwater level declines have
ranged from zero to 10 feet.
Flood. Exposure to a 500-year flood event in the region threatens approximately one in three residents, almost $65 billion in assets (crops, buildings, and public infrastructure), 1.2 million acres of agricultural land, and over 340 sensitive species. Almost 95 percent of Sutter County residents, more than 55 percent of Yuba County and Yolo County residents, and more than 50 percent of agricultural land region-wide are exposed to the 500-year flood event.
Climate Change. Several different climate regions overlie portions of the Sacramento River Hydrologic Region. Air temperature data collected for the past century has been summarized by the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) for the different regions which are outlined below.
- Within the WRCC North Central climate region, mean temperatures have increased by about 0.8 to 1.7 °F (0.4 to 0.9 °C) in the past century, with minimum and maximum temperatures increasing by about 1.2 to 2.1 °F (0.7 to 1.2 °C) and 0.1 to 1.5 °F (0.1 to 0.8 °C), respectively.
- Within the WRCC North East climate region, mean temperatures have increased by about 0.8 to 2.0 °F (0.5 to 1.1 °C) in the past century, with minimum and maximum temperatures increasing by about 0.9 to 2.2 °F (0.5 to 1.2 °C) and by 0.5 to 2.1 °F (0.3 to 1.2 °C), respectively.
- Within the WRCC Sierra climate region, mean temperatures have increased by about 0.8 to 2.0 °F (0.5 to 1.1 °C) in the past century, with minimum and maximum temperatures increasing and decreasing by about 1.7 to 2.8 °F (0.9 to 1.5 °C) and by -0.2 to 1.3 °F (-0.1 to 0.7 °C), respectively.
- Within the WRCC Sacramento-Delta climate region, mean temperatures have increased by about 1.5 to 2.4 °F (0.9 to 1.3 °C) in the past century, with minimum and maximum temperatures increasing by about 2.1 to 3.1 °F (1.2 to 1.7 °C) and by 0.8 to 2.0 °F (0.4 to 1.1 °C), respectively (Western
Regional Climate Center 2013).
The region also is currently experiencing impacts from climate change through changes in statewide precipitation and surface runoff volumes, which in turn affect availability of local and imported water supplies. During the last century, the average early snowpack in the Sierra Nevada decreased by about 10 percent, which equates to a loss of 1.5 maf of snowpack storage (California Department of Water Resources 2008). Projections and impacts based on modeling of climate change are included in this report.