Assessment of Ecosystem Services in a Semi-arid Agriculture-dominant Area: Framework and Case Study

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Ramesh Dhungel1, Yihsu Chen2, Rudy Maltos3, Kumaraswamy Sivakumaran1, Andres Aguilar4 and Thomas C Harmon5, (1)University of California Merced, Merced, CA, United States, (2)University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Technology Management, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (3)Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, United States, (4)California State University Los Angeles, Biological Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (5)University of California Merced, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, Merced, CA, United States
California’s Central Valley (CV) water crisis has increased in severity due to a prolonged drought. The drought is directly contributing to the overexploitation of groundwater, along with deficiency in agricultural, recreational and aesthetic water services. The population of the CV, home to about 6.5 million people, is projected to be 12 million by 2040. Balancing water demand between municipal use, agricultural supply, and other ecosystem services, will be challenging for this region in perpetuity. In the heart of CV lies the San Joaquin River (SJR) where Friant Dam is the main low-elevation reservoir regulating water release. The Friant Dam’s reservoir fulfills agricultural, municipal and industrial water needs through the Friant-Kern and Madera canals, as well as through the mainstem SJR. The SJR restoration project (SJRRP) is a recent development that is imposing additional demands on water releases in order to restore sustainable aquatic habitat for Chinook salmon and other species on the mainstem below the Friant Dam. The Chinook require adequate flow to moderate river temperature, particularly during hot summer and fall months. Temperatures on CV rivers exhibit strong diurnal and seasonal patterns, and can rise to harmful levels when flows are inadequate. In this study, we developed a framework that allows for assessing the effectiveness and implied costs of ecosystem services provided by a restored SJR in a semi-arid agriculture-dominant area. This is done by explicitly linking economics-based farmers’ model with a reduced-form hydrological model that is loosely coupled to a physical-based stream-temperature model, specifically CE-QUAL-W2. The farmers’ model is based on positive mathematical program approach calibrated with twenty proxy crops for year 2005. The river-hydrology is simulated by a vector autoregression model that incorporates daily flow variability. We study the mandated release policies by the SJR restoration project, along with hypothetical policies aimed at moderating river temperatures while enhancing groundwater recharge along the river corridor. We hypothesize that agricultural losses in terms of flow diverted to the SJR restoration can be offset by gains in groundwater resources in a long run, which is important to reduce pumping costs and insure against future.