In response to a changing climate, innovative solutions are being developed to help ensure safe, reliable water supplies will be available to California’s residents, while also providing benefits to the ecosystems that rely on environmental flows to sustain them.

Why does this project matter?

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is working with local and regional water agencies to conduct cutting-edge climate vulnerability assessments of watersheds in the San Joaquin Valley and evaluating how flood protection and groundwater recharge strategies can be used to adapt to climate vulnerabilities. Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) involves the collection of high flows from heavy precipitation events or snow melt, and then moving it to locations such as agricultural fields or other managed lands for groundwater recharge.

What is ESA doing to help?

ESA is working with DWR to study how strategies for implementing Flood-MAR in multiple tributaries to the San Joaquin River can be designed to limit impact and provide benefits to each river’s ecosystem. ESA developed environmental indicators and associated quantitative metrics that allowed for evaluation of the effects of Flood-MAR on sensitive aquatic species across the five San Joaquin River tributaries. In addition to evaluating effects, ESA helped inform the reservoir reoperations under Flood-MAR to provide environmental flows critical for specific salmonid life stages. Overall, ESA’s analysis and planning efforts are helping provide additional environmental benefits of Flood-MAR actions to help balance the trade-offs with other competing water demands (e.g. water supply, flood control).

Connect with our team

Testimonials icon

Here at ESA, we are thrilled to be helping implement this critical climate resiliency strategy and work with program partners to implement Flood-MAR projects with full consideration of the ecosystems reliant on these floodwaters.

Paul Bergman, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Director


Client California Department of Water Resources

Location San Joaquin River Basin

Market Water


ESA contributed to the recently completed first-of-its-kind study for the Merced River Watershed Flood-MAR Reconnaissance Study.

Aerial view of San Joaquin Valley wetlands. Photo by DWR.

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