Sacramento River Wetland Flow Restoration

California is a linchpin of the Pacific Flyway, a grand route of avian migration that spans from Alaska to South America. Birds traveling this pathway come to California to feed, rest and winter in the state’s wetlands and forests. They carry nutrients that enrich our soils—including agricultural lands—and play a vital role in the ecosystem as both predators and prey. Shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds and raptors also generate billions of dollars in revenue from birdwatchers and hunters.

California’s wetlands once supported 40 to 80 million waterfowl each winter. Today, almost 95% of wetland habitat has been lost in California’s Central Valley.

The Sacramento River Wetland Enhancement project partners with The
Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Bird Returns Program and local rice farmers to provide water to keep fields flooded during key times of the year, helping sustain critical wetland habitat in California’s Central Valley. By providing a relatively small amount of water—and using that water during critical times and in strategic locations—TNC and the Bird Returns Program is able to generate significant wildlife and groundwater replenishment benefits.

Working collaboratively with farmers, this project provides an important new revenue stream for rice growers, while simultaneously creating a water and wetland lifeline for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Collectively, a whole series of Bird Returns projects provide 10,000 acres of habitat each year for hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds that rely on California’s Central Valley.

* Project supports voluntary transactions to change, reduce or stop water use – either temporarily or permanently – to protect or restore water for environmental benefit


Near Sacramento, CA

Start Up Date:


Project Benefits:

Enhancing Recreation & Economic Benefits

Securing Water for Communities & Food Production

Wildlife & Habitat Protection

Project Type:

Flow Restoration Transaction *


Funding Needed

Volunteer Opportunities

Project Partner

The Nature Conservancy of California