DETERMINING WATER QUALITY TRENDS IN THE SACRAMENTO-SAN JOAQUIN DELTA WATERSHED IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh (Delta) is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas and is a resource of local, State, and national significance. The Delta is simultaneously the most critical component of California’s water supply, a primary focus of the state’s ecological conservation measures, and a vital resource deeply imperiled by degraded water quality. Delta waterbodies are identified as impaired by salinity, excess nutrients, low dissolved oxygen, pathogens, pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the impacts of existing stressors in the Delta and magnify the challenges of managing this natural resource. A clear understanding of the current state of the watershed is needed to better inform scientists, decision makers, and the public about potential impacts from climate change. The Delta Watershed Initiative Network (Delta WIN) leverages the ecological benefits of healthy watersheds, and enhances, expands and creates opportunities for greater watershed health by coordinating with agencies, established programs, and local organizations. At this critical junction, Delta WIN is coordinating data integration and analysis to develop better understanding of the existing and emerging water quality concerns. As first steps, Delta WIN is integrating existing water quality data, analyzing trends, and monitoring to fill data gaps and to evaluate indicators of climate change impacts. Available data will be used for trend analysis; Delta WIN will continue to monitor where data is incomplete and new questions arise. Understanding how climate change conditions may affect water quality will be used to inform efforts to build resilience and maintain water quality levels which sustain aquatic life and human needs. Assessments of historical and new data will aid in recognition of potential climate change impacts and in initiating implementation of best management practices in collaboration with State and local agencies. Ultimately, Delta WIN can inform responsive science and adaptive management in other estuaries and critical natural resource areas facing times of change.