Keywords:Groundwater Exchange, interbasin flow, transboundary aquifers, water supply
The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta form one of the largest estuaries in the United States. The “Bay-Delta” system provides water...
The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta form one of the largest estuaries in the United States. The “Bay-Delta” system provides water to more than 25 million California residents and vast farmlands, as well as key habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. To help ensure the health of this crucial estuary, the U.S. Geological Survey, in close cooperation with partner agencies and organizations, is providing science essential to addressing societal issues associated with water quantity and quality, sediment transportation, environmental contamination, animal health and status, habitat restoration, hazards, ground subsidence, and climate change.
The Environmental Data Summit, convened under the auspices of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program in June 2014, witnessed remarkable participation from...
The Environmental Data Summit, convened under the auspices of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program in June 2014, witnessed remarkable participation from experts across California, the nation, and even the world. Summit attendees from the public, private, federal, and non-profit sectors shared their views regarding the urgent needs and proposed solutions for California’s data-sharing and data-integration challenges, especially pertaining to the subject of environmental resource management in the era of “big data.”
After all, this is a time when our data sources are growing in number, size, and complexity. Yet our ability to manage and analyze such data in service of effective decision-making lags far behind our demonstrated needs.
In its review of the sustainability of water and environmental management in the California Bay-Delta, the National Research Council (NRC) found that “only a synthetic, integrated, analytical approach to understanding the effects of suites of environmental factors (stressors) on the ecosystem and its components is likely to provide important insights that can lead to enhancement of the Delta and its species” (National Research Council 2012).
The present “silos of data” have resulted in separate and compartmentalized science, impeding our ability to make informed decisions. While resolving data integration challenges will not, by itself, produce better science or better natural resource outcomes, progress in this area will provide a strong foundation for decision-making. Various mandates ranging from the California Water Action Plan to the President’s executive order demanding federal open data policies demonstrate the consensus on the merits of modern data sharing at the scale and function needed to meet today’s challenges.
This white paper emerges from the Summit as an instrument to help identify such opportunities to enhance California’s cross-jurisdictional data management. As a resource to policymakers, agency leadership, data managers, and others, this paper articulates some key challenges as well as proven solutions that, with careful and thoughtful coordination, can be implemented to overcome those obstacles. Primarily featured are tools that complement the State’s current investments in technology, recognizing that success depends upon broad and motivated participation from all levels of the public agency domain.
This document describes examples, practices, and recommendations that focus on California’s Delta as an opportune example likely to yield meaningful initial results in the face of pressing challenges. Once proven in the Delta, however, this paper’s recommended innovations would conceivably be applied statewide in subsequent phases.
Large-scale fish kills and habitat destruction aren’t an unusual occurrence at the giant federal and state pumps that export water from the Sacramento-San...
Large-scale fish kills and habitat destruction aren’t an unusual occurrence at the giant federal and state pumps that export water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to agribusinesses and cities in the southern half of the state. These events are business as usual.
• Every day, between 870 and 61,000 fish – including from 200 to 42,000 native and endangered fishes – are “salvaged” at the pumps. Most die in the process.
• On average, over 9 million fish – representing the twenty fish species considered in this report – are “salvaged” each year at the pumps. As many as 15 million fish of all species encountered are “salvaged” each year.
• Up to 40% of the total population of the endangered delta smelt and 15% of the endangered winter-run population of Chinook salmon are killed at the pumps in some years. In the first half of 2011, over 8.6 million splittail were salvaged.
• Salvage estimates drastically underestimate the problem. The numbers do not factor in the results of “indirect” mortality, as high levels of export pumping disrupt fish migration, shrink the amount of non-lethal habitat available to fish species, and remove vast amounts of biomass, including fish eggs and larvae too small to be screened at the pumps.
• Export pumping causes the lower San Joaquin River to flow backwards most of the year and removes the equivalent of 170 railroad boxcars of water – and the accompanying fish, other organisms, and nutrients – from the Delta ecosystem every minute.
• Large numbers of fish being entrained is a problem even for species that are not currently listed as “endangered.” Killing large numbers of fish year after year cuts off population growth in response to favorable conditions and can start the species on a downward path to extinction. As the species declines, the population impacts of entrainment become proportionately larger.
• Entrainment is a real problem. But the same interests in the Delta export community who claim that it isn’t also back constructing expensive new conveyance facilities such as a peripheral canal or tunnel to solve the problem that they say doesn’t exist.
Record-low counts of Delta smelt at a time of persistent drought underscore the importance and challenges of managing freshwater flows for the benefit...
Record-low counts of Delta smelt at a time of persistent drought underscore the importance and challenges of managing freshwater flows for the benefit of fishes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while also meeting human demands for water. Understanding the effects of water flows on fishes is central to understanding how the Delta ecosystem functions and is key to achieving the state’s coequal goals of “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem … in a manner that protects and enhances … the values of Delta as an evolving place”. The economic, ecological, and social costs of scientific uncertainty in water management controversies are significant - and to some degree unavoidable.
Scientific findings that relate fishes and flows increasingly guide decisions on how to manage flows for the well-being of threatened or endangered species in the Delta. Many studies – and management decisions – rely on correlations between water flows and fish populations. But the decisions warrant fuller understanding of precisely how the flows affect the fishes. Knowledge of these underlying mechanisms is likely to facilitate adaptive management by clarifying uncertainty and risk, by creating specific expectations for outcomes and by strengthening testable hypotheses. This report therefore recommends, first and foremost (there are other recommendations as well), redoubling effects to identify causes and
effects concerning fishes and flows in the Delta.