The Nature Conservancy's scientists in California are working to inform, influence, and inspire conservation in today's human-dominated world, to build a future in which people and nature thrive together.
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.
This collection features The Nature Conservancy's publications on freshwater sytems in California.