California voters approved the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) to provide funding to implement the three objectives of the California Water Action Plan, which are: more reliable water supplies, the restoration of important species and habitat, and a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades.
Proposition 1 authorized the Legislature to appropriate $200 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) to fund projects that result in enhanced stream flows (i.e., a change in the amount, timing, and/or quality of water flowing down a stream, or a portion of a stream, to benefit fish and wildlife). WCB distributes these funds on a competitive basis through the Stream Flow Enhancement Program (Program).
The Program funds projects that enhance stream flows and are consistent with the objectives and actions outlined in the California Water Action Plan, with the primary focus on enhancing flow in streams that support anadromous fish; support special-status, threatened, endangered, or at-risk species; or provide resilience to climate change.
The process, procedures, and criteria through which WCB administers the Program are described in the Program Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Notices.
Examples of project types (should not be viewed as exhaustive lists of eligible project types):
- Water Transactions (refer to California Water Code section 79709)
- Purchase or long-term transfer of water from a willing seller
- Water rights instream dedication pursuant to CWC section 1707
- Forbearance agreements
- Conservation easements
- Water conservation projects (actions that provide more efficient use of water diverted or reduces the amount diverted from a stream, resulting in enhanced stream flow) coupled with adequate long term (≥20 years) protections for the conserved water
- Off-channel water storage
- Changes in the timing or rate of diversion or source water supply
- Irrigation ditch lining or piping
- Stock-water systems
- Agricultural tailwater recovery/management systems
- Fans for frost protection
- Changing points of diversion
- Groundwater storage and conjunctive use
- Reservoir operations both at existing and new storage sites
- Habitat restoration projects that enhance stream flow
- Wet meadow restoration
- Forest management practices (e.g., thinning)
- Reconnecting flood flows with restored flood plains
- Eradication of invasive plant species with high water use rates, relative to native plant species
- Acquisition of land or interests in land that lead to a direct and measurable enhancement to stream flow, improving upon existing flow conditions
- Stream flow gauging
- Scientific studies that assess effectiveness of previously implemented projects and/or inform design and implementation of future stream flow enhancement project(s).
As of April 2020, the WCB has approved approximately $110 million in funding to 104 projects through the Stream Flow Enhancement Program (Figure 1). For additional information, see:
Figure 1. Amount of Funding Awarded by the Board by Year and Project Category