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Max Stevenson

Max Stevenson
Water Resources Scientist, Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District
Everyone depends on wells around here.

Max Stevenson works at the local irrigation district and manages much of the water that irrigates the crops in Yolo County.  Cache Creek not only supplies this area with irrigation water but is directly linked to your drinking water.  Mr. Stevenson makes sure everything works smoothly so you don’t have to worry.




So, tell us about yourself.

We’re the local irrigation district and we manage the flows on Cache Creek and the reservoirs upstream.  I’ve worked there since 2005, so I’ve been working on Cache Creek for about six years.  During the summer we’ll come down and take samples and do water quality testing.

Tell us about the Creek.

If you come down here in the summer, you see beautiful Cache Creek with its crystal clear water and you step in the middle and start walking upstream. After a mile or two, the water disappears, and you’ll be walking on dry gravel for miles.  The flow in the creek is coming out of the ground in this location.  And it really does flow! I’ve been walking in flowing water in Tevas (a water sandal) with water up my shins, splashing through water, walking downstream. Then it’s dry and you’re walking on top of a gravel bar; another quarter mile and the water starts flowing again.  It’s really fascinating; the interaction between the ground water and the surface at this location is very close.

That leads in to the next question, which is, why is this place in particular important?

Why is this area important?  Well, many reasons!  There’s a lot of people that live here and wildlife that live here and food production that happens here.  There are aggregate mines, the Nature Preserve itself—I’m sure you’ve already heard—was an old gravel pit, but restored into habitat.  Water gets diverted upstream of here about 7-8 miles into the channel system of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and irrigates tens of thousands of acres of tomatoes for processing.

Can you tell me about an activity that you have been involved in on this land or an experience that stands out to you?

Well, this land… in my mind I focus on the creek because the creek is where the water is and that’s my career.  That’s what I’ve dedicated my professional life to, and so most of my day is spent thinking, talking, working on the creek.  I have a team of technicians that help measure the water flows and take samples and check on the health of the creek and it’s very much a team effort.  Other agencies and the Conservancy itself do other types of monitoring and management.  We all meet on a regular basis once a month at the county; the aggregate producers, the Conservancy, and the local RCD.  That’s all we do, we talk about the creek.  It’s a dynamic animal, the creek.

Is there something in particular you would like people to know about the creek?

Something in particular that I would like for people to know about the creek, which I don’t think is appreciated as much generally, is this idea that at some spots this creek is entirely groundwater.  And in other spots, it’s surface water.  And when you look at the creek and it’s crystal clear, that means it’s ground water and you can go down and measure different chemical fingerprints and parameters, like the saltiness, with electrical conductivity.  You can look at the salinity and it matches groundwater.  And when it has low salinity, looks kind of cloudy like it does right now, that’s Clear Lake water and that’s surface water.  In Davis, all your water is out of the ground.  So you’re drinking and watering lawns and washing cars with ground water, it's 100% from wells.  We depend on our ground water, and the amount of ground water storage under our feet is 15-20 times larger then what we have in the reservoirs upstream.  So, knowing that, we need to take care of the ground water and not pollute it.  We need to manage it properly, and this is one of the cool places to learn about groundwater.  This is not what most people think about when they come out here.  They think about the creek and surface water and the wildlife and the habitat.  But this is a link to this underground world right here on the surface!

Written by: 
Kevin Taniguchi

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