Thank you to our Waterway WOW! donors! Generous supporters gave over $68,000 during the campaign to provide plants we will use to re-vegetate the banks of the waterway and to help us launch vital student programs. We are incredibly grateful! We will keep you informed about our progress and how this funding impacts the waterway’s long-term value as an educational and community engagement resource!
After years of input, planning and evaluation, the Arboretum Waterway is on its way to becoming a place that reflects the environmental expertise of UC Davis as well as a resource for student and community engagement. LEARN MORE.
What will the campaign fund?
Once contractors complete the phase one renovation area, we will need funding to plant the waterway’s banks in the current construction zone as well as launch a pilot internship program where students will gain experience managing and enhancing this complex system.
Watch for news about contests, giving opportunities and other ways to participate throughout the campaign.
Your gifts during this timeframe will help make our community’s vision for the waterway a reality!
Watch the campaign video!
The Arboretum Waterway used to be part of the north fork of Putah Creek. In the 1870s, soon after the railroad arrived in Davis, local residents used horse-drawn scrapers to divert Putah Creek south of Davis to prevent periodic flooding in heavy winter flows. In 1939, a major flood caused considerable damage to the early UC Davis campus. Later, in 1948, The Army Corps of Engineers permanently sealed off the north fork of Putah Creek to prevent future flooding. Now, the waterway is connected to Putah Creek by pumps that send stormwater from the waterway to the South Fork of Putah Creek (south of campus). Both ends of the Arboretum Waterway are dammed.
The Arboretum Waterway constantly fills with recycled water from campus throughout the year, and with storm water when it rains.
The original channel flowed from west to east. Now, although mostly stagnant, the water moves from east to west as the result of slight elevation changes.
No. The waterway is higher in elevation than the live channel, and is now separated from its original path by Highway 113, I-80, and the El Macero community.
Duckweed is an aquatic plant that floats just beneath the surface of the waterway. It cleans nitrogen from the water, and keeps it cool. While too much duckweed can create low oxygen levels in a closed pond, our infusion of recycled water keeps the oxygen levels from dropping too low.
Approximately every 20 years, a buildup of excess sediment in the waterway needs to be removed in order to maintain its storage capacity as part of the campus flood control system. Based on the amount of sediment in the east end of the waterway, we are now at one of those times. However, in addition to addressing standard maintenance issues, we are also redesigning the waterway to function better from a stormwater collection standpoint, as well as from an ecological and aesthetic standpoint. With funding secured, nearby pathway improvements needed, and increased visitor interest in the waterway, now is the time to get this project started.
No. This is the first phase of a multi-year project to complete the entire waterway, so you won’t see any changes from Lake Spafford to the west after completion of this phase. Phase one covers the eastern third of the waterway. The phases covering Spafford and the waterway to the west will occur in subsequent years.
We will use the funding raised during the campaign to plant the waterway’s banks in the current construction zone with over 6,000 plants as well as launch a pilot internship program where students will gain experience managing and enhancing this complex system.
With the exception of the native Sacramento blackfish (for research) and mosquitofish (for mosquito control), the fish in the waterway were not put there by representatives from UC Davis. Any goldfish, koi, carp, catfish, and bass you see in the waterway were most likely placed there by other individuals.
The build up of algae in summer months has led many people to dub Putah Creek the “green river.” John Fogerty, the lead singer and songwriter for the band Creedence Clearwater Revival, often vacationed at Putah Creek as a child. The band’s 1969 single “Green River” is named for Putah Creek.
The Arboretum Waterway, used to be part of Putah Creek, now they are only connected through a series of pumps and pipes (see question above, “Is the Arboretum Waterway part of Putah Creek,” for more historical information). The campus does encompass part of Putah Creek however, just not in the Arboretum. You can see and experience Putah Creek when you visit Putah Creek Riparian Reserve.
Mature trees and shrubs on the banks keep the water cooler by creating shade and limiting the effects of sunlight. In addition, Willow type shrubs are fast growing and provide overhanging cover and habitat for fish, amphibians and reptiles. The Willow type shrubs are also an important food source for birds. We are raising funds during the Waterway WOW! campaign to revegetate the banks in the current area of construction.
The inspiration for the design of the waterway is Putah Creek, which you can still find as part of the campus’s Putah Creek Riparian Reserve located on south campus. Like Putah Creek, there will be vegetation along the waterway, as well as in the water, including some naturally-occurring duckweed and algae, albeit much smaller amounts than we’ve seen in the recent past.
The river otters likely found their way to the waterway by following the old channel where Putah Creek used to flow on west campus. Once they got to the Arboretum, they found ample food in the crayfish that live in the waterway, and have made it their home.
The waterway’s cool temperature supports a diverse and abundant number of species in the water, which then supports larger predators such as birds and mammals.
There are hundreds of wildlife species in and along the Arboretum Waterway, including:
- Red crayfish (Procambarus clarki)*
- Pipevine swallowtail butterflies (Battus philenor)
- Eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)*
- Western tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio rutulus)
- Painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui)
- Sacramento blackfish (Orthodon microlepidotus)
- Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
- Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana)
- Red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans)*
- Western pond turtles (Emys marmorata)
- Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
- Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
- California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi)
- Great egret (Ardea alba)
- Green heron (Butorides virescens)
*not native to this area.
For a complete list, please download the Arboretum Wildlife Management and Enhancement Plan.
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Waterway News & Info
- June 16, 2017
- June 8, 2017
- June 6, 2017
- May 19, 2017
- April 19, 2017
Waterway WOW! April 21 – May 4 The Arboretum Waterway is an iconic part of UC Davis and an...April 7, 2017
The fences are up and the detours have begun.March 10, 2017
Detours begin the week of February 27, 2017.February 24, 2017
Undergraduate students will sample water and provide important analysis.January 27, 2017
- September 29, 2016
If you visited the Arboretum over the summer, you probably noticed that our waterway was especially thick — thicker...September 13, 2016
- August 17, 2016