News Release Archive

Bureau of Reclamation Launches American River Basin Study in Northern California

St. Mary and Milk River Basins Study in Montana and Santa Fe Basin Study in New Mexico to be Updated

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615,

For Release: September 07, 2016

American River in Northern California
American River in Northern California
WASHINGTON - Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López announced that Reclamation is launching a new basin study in the American River Basin in Northern California. This comprehensive water study will help inform water management in the Central Valley Project.

"Understanding the growing imbalances between water supply and demand in the West is important for Reclamation and its partners," Commissioner López said. "Working together and using the latest science and data we can develop options that will help us achieve a sustainable water supply."

The American River Basin Study will include the development of detailed hydrologic analysis and models for the basin, which will include consideration of the impacts of climate change. It will also leverage existing stakeholder groups to identify and evaluate adaptation strategies specific to the American River Basin. To complete this study, Reclamation is partnering with the Placer County Water Agency, El Dorado County Water Agency, City of Sacramento, City of Roseville, City of Folsom and Regional Water Authority.

The basin encompasses 2,140 square miles in California from its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe to the city of Sacramento where it meets the Sacramento River. It is highly populated and the population is expected to grow 47 percent to nearly 3 million people by 2060. The basin supports salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act and provides water to support the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Reclamation will also be collaborating with partners to update the St. Mary and Milk River Basins Study in Montana and Santa Fe Basin Study in New Mexico.

The St. Mary and Milk River Basins straddle the U.S./Canadian border. The basin study update will improve the modeling used in the initial basin study, which was completed in 2012. At that time, the basin study projected a 27 percent increase in irrigation depletion by 2050. Currently the basin is experiencing an annual shortage of 71,000 acre-feet, which represents 36 percent of the overall irrigation supply. The new modeling will support efforts to meet current and future water demands.

The Santa Fe Basin Study covers a 285 square mile sub-basin of the Rio Grande located in New Mexico. The original basin study completed in 2015 projected that shortages may reach up to 9,323 acre-feet by 2055, about 40 percent of projected demand within the basin. The update to the basin study will include an analysis to better understand the progression of shortages leading up to 2055. This update will assist the city in evaluating strategies to meet future water needs and evaluate strategies including water reuse, enhanced conservation, and grey water and rooftop catchment programs.

The Basin Study Program is part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is the Department of the Interior's sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit

To learn more about the Basin Study Program or the projects announced today, please visit

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.