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4 Environmental Change: Challenges and Opportunities INTRODUCTION Anthropogenic influences have rapidly and radically altered the bay- delta ecosystem over the past 150 years. Major changes such as land sub- sidence, climate change, habit alteration, water quality, population growth, water exports, invasion by nonnative species, and in-delta physical changes will continue to change the delta during the current century and beyond. Consequently, delta planning must envision a system that may be very dif- ferent from what exists today, both physically and functionally. Rehabilita- tion planning in such a setting is extremely challenging as it is confounded by numerous uncertainties in the drivers of change. However, the projec- tions of anticipated changes will allow many opportunities to tailor the res- toration strategies to steer the future delta to a desirable state (Lund et al. 2010) and to include flexibility and wide tolerances in the design of water infrastructure and ecosystem rehabilitation. Some of the primary challenges include, but are not limited to, habitat loss, climate change including sea level rise, and levee stability. In this chapter, we discuss the details and the potential implications of these challenges and opportunities. HABITAT LOSS Habitat loss has been implicated as a major factor in species extinctions (e.g., NRC 1995, 1996, Seabloom et al. 2002). This relationship has been established over a very wide range of habitats and species, and there is no reason to conclude that it is any less important in the delta than elsewhere. 153
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154 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA Indeed, the extent of changes in the delta (e.g., Lund et al. 2010; see discus- sion of changing delta environments below) compound the effects of the many dams on major delta tributaries that remove habitat for migratory species whose passage is blocked by the dams (e.g., NMFS 2009). Habitat is the physical and biological setting in which organisms live and in which other components of the environment are encountered (Krebs 1985, NRC 1995). Thus, all aspects of the delta, past and present, serve as habitat and all the environmental changes described in Chapters 1 and 3 affect habitat and the species that depend on it. Many efforts have been made and are ongoing to measure and assess habitats in terms of their suitability for organisms (e.g., NRC 2008a). The habitats of the delta are diverse in character and include the water column; submerged substrates; adjacent intertidal, wetland, and upland areas; agricultural fields; levees; rivers and streams; the estuary; and so on. All of them have changed mark- edly in the past 150 years. Based on the complexity of delta habitats and the modifications to them, the interactions between stressors (for example, the interactions among temperature, salinity, and invasive cyanobacteria) must be considered. In many cases, substantial knowledge exists around habitat needs for individual species. For example, much is known about what salmon need with respect to temperature, water flows and velocities, turbidity, water depths, substrate and gravel types, seasonality of many of the preceding factors, riparian vegetation, and especially access (e.g., see Williams 2006, McLain and Castillo 2010, NMFS 2009). For delta smelt, important habi- tat factors include open water, semienclosed bays, flow rates and volumes, temperature, turbidity, and salinity. The list of factors increases when habi- tat for their prey is also considered. Changes in pelagic fish habitat have been described (e.g., Nobriga et al. 2008). One key aspect for pelagic organisms is that, unlike species that require specific substrate conditions, high-quaity habitat (and, similarly, low-quality habitat) for these species shifts location with changes in water conditions, especially in tidal areas. Thus, management of the salinity gradient, for example, in the estuary has important implications for delta smelt and other pelagic species. The delta ecosystem will never return to its predisturbance state. Changes in the template combined with changes in community composition provide a context for efforts to "restore" the delta. The changes in delta geometry in the past 150 years, in both vertical and horizontal planes, have resulted in a system dominated by subsided islands and deep, levee-bound channels. The continued loss of peat from the islands combined with rising sea level continues to lead the system away from its former topography and bathymetry (Mount and Twiss 2005). Recent studies (Brooks et al. 2012) point to subsidence of 3 to 20 mm per year associated with compaction of underlying Quaternary sediments. Brooks et al. conclude that "[b]y 2100,
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 155 all scenarios except the lowest rate [of sea-level rise] combined with the lowest reference frame bias project that at least ~38 percent and likely closer to ~97 percent of all levees" will subside by at least 0.5 m below their current elevations. In addition, the changes in water chemistry, nutri- ent concentrations, altered residence times, and their consequences chal- lenge the re-creation of habitat. As an example, one of the challenges in rehabilitating the Everglades in Florida is that nonnative species, increased phosphorus loads, and changed hydrology mean that simply restoring water flow without other actions will not lead to a recovery of the former com- munity structure and composition (e.g., NRC 2010). Even if tidal water and dredged material were reintroduced to flooded islands to return them to an intertidal or shallow subtidal elevation, con- tinued maintenance of such elevations in the face of sea level rise will be necessary to maintain native wetland plant communities within their hydro- logic tolerance limits and will require the accumulation of organic matter and sediment. Reed (2002) showed that even though delta wetland soils are frequently described as peats, the proportion of minerals in wetland soils even in the sediment-starved central delta was more than 75 percent on a dry-weight basis. Periodic inputs of sediments to the delta and redistribu- tion of erodible material by tidal and flood flows were likely important in maintaining historic marsh elevations given underlying subsidence and sea level. However, Wright and Schoellhamer (2004) show that "the delivery of suspended sediment from the Sacramento River to San Francisco Bay has decreased by about one-half during the period 1957 to 2001." They attribute this decline to many factors, "including the depletion of erodible sediment from factors that affect sediment load, including hydraulic mining in the late 1800s, trapping of sediment in reservoirs, riverbank protection, altered land-uses (such as agriculture, grazing, urbanization, and logging), and levees." Even if the historic mosaic of wetlands, mudflats, and shallow tidal channels could be re-created, changes in delta biological communities mean these habitats would likely be used by a different suite of species. Grimaldo et al. (2012) compared fishes caught in shallow subtidal areas in a remnant natural wetland with several areas returned to tidal action by inadvertent levee breaches. They conclude that physical habitat modifications and bio- logical introductions have had irreversible effects on native fish assemblages and their habitats. Even in areas that had not undergone any physical modification to its historic marsh area, the subtidal mudflats surrounding the marsh were entirely colonized by invasive submerged aquatic vegeta- tion (SAV) to the extent that it "choked out" any transitional open-water habitat between the shallow shoals and the marsh. The fish assemblage at the unaltered site in Grimaldo et al.'s study was dominated by introduced fishes, such as centrarchids, which are well adapted to SAV.
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156 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA Recreating wetland-mudflat-channel configurations with land sculp- turing may be possible, and reintroducing tidal flows to formerly isolated areas is a well-established restoration technique. However, a restored geo- morphic-hydrologic condition would not support the same assemblage of species in the same numbers as were present before the delta was altered, although it might be possible to approach previous community composi- tions in some places. CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE DELTA ECOSYSTEM Climate change is a challenge confronting the management and res- toration of the Central Valley and bay-delta ecosystem. Future changes in the mean climate and its variability are expected to profoundly affect the physical and ecological structure of the ecosystem as well as the nature of water issues in California. The cascading effects of climate change begin with increasing temperature, which over the 50-year planning horizon of the delta is predicted to increase between 1°C and 3°C (Cayan et al. 2009). This equates to the mean annual air temperature in Sacramento increasing from the current 16°C (~61°F) to somewhere between 17°C (~63°F) and 19°C (~66°F). At first glance, this does not seem especially significant, since the average low temperature in Sacramento in December is 4°C and the average high in July and August is 34°C. However, accompanying a rising temperature, the pattern of precipitation and runoff is expected to change significantly and the sea level is projected to rise (USBR 2011). These fac- tors will affect the bay-delta ecosystem, its tributary watersheds, and the water supply critical to both urban and agricultural users (Chung et al. 2009; USBR 2011). Physical impacts of climate change in the bay-delta region have been well studied (e.g., Field et al. 1999, Cayan et al. 2008, Franco et al. 2008, CDWR, 2010, CAT 2010, USBR 2011). The work to date includes a systems approach for understanding the natural variability including the potential global teleconnections to the region's climate (Redmond and Koch 1991, Greshunov et al. 2000), detection and attribution of historical changes in climate (Bonfils et al. 2008), quantification of potential changes in primary stressors of climate through analyses of the General Circulation Model (GCM) predictions (Cayan et al. 2009) and downscaling (Hidalgo et al. 2008. Maurer and Hidalgo 2008), impacts of projected sea level rise (Knowles 2009), and the sensitivity of the water resources system to climate change and sea level rise (USBR 2008, 2011). However, only a few projections have quantified the impacts of warming, consequent changes in hydrology, and the sea level rise on the ecology of the Central Valleybay- delta region. Some initial work is under way to integrate links between climate, hydrology, and ecology in the bay-delta system and its watersheds
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 157 (CASCaDE 2010, Cloern et al. 2011), which should prove to be beneficial information for planners in the future. In considering climate impacts on the ecosystem, the change and es- pecially the variability in the seasonal patterns of precipitation, flows, and temperature are probably most important in disrupting the life history pat- terns of delta species. The delta is changing continuously and natural but extreme variations could pose significant threats to the sustainability of its desirable ecological functions. A conceptual framework for addressing climate change effects in the bay-delta system includes the linkages between global drivers, both natural and anthropogenic, the regional and local stressors, and the corresponding effects. Warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases, as highlighted recently by the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007), is the primary change in climate and the cause of sea level rise in the Central Valley. The other primary driver, natural variability, is manifested in multidecadal changes in precipitation and temperature pat- terns (Pagano and Garen 2005) and intradecadal variations associated with such phenomena as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) (Redmond and Koch 1991), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (Francis and Hare 1994), and the North Pacific Oscillation (Pierce 2005). For example, Pagano and Garen (2005), who studied streamflows from 1901 to 2002 in California, showed that the period from 1980 to 2002 had the greatest variability and persistence in streamflows. This means that there were periods of wet years along with multiyear extreme droughts. El Niño winters result in wetter winters, particularly in South California, but have had a lesser impact on northern regions of the state (Redmond and Koch 1991, Cayan et al. 2009). Ocean-atmospheric patterns will also elevate the sea levels along the west coast during the El Niño years (Cayan et al. 2008). In the ensuing sections, we begin with a review of the magnitude of cli- mate change and sea level rise and large-scale hydrologic effects of climate change, scale down to how changes may disrupt the life cycles of listed delta species, assess how these effects might impact restoration planning efforts, and finally provide suggestions for dealing with climate change. Estimates of Climate Change Temperature and Precipitation Results of climate modeling are not necessarily accurate predictions of the magnitude of warming. However, model projections consistently show that the gradual warming in California during the earlier part of the 21st century is very similar for various emission scenarios, but they may differ in the later decades. Projection estimates vary but the midcentury warm-
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158 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA ing is in the range of 1°C to 3°C, which will increase to 2°C to 6°C by the end of the 21st century (Cayan et al. 2009). Climate models also predict substantial variability in warming across the Central Valley (USBR 2011). This asymmetry in temporal (both seasonal and decadal-scale) and spatial warming will substantially affect precipitation patterns (snow versus rain), snowpack, and the snowmelt in the tributary watersheds of the bay delta. Compared to the historical period, spring temperatures are projected to be warmer, particularly during the second half of the century, and reduce April 1 snowpack, a key indicator of water supply for the following sum- mer and fall. The duration of extreme warm temperatures grows from 2 months (July-August) to 4 months (June to September) (Climate Action Team Report 2010). Heat waves are also projected to increase in frequency and magnitude. Projections indicate that precipitation may decline in some regions of the Central Valley, particularly during the mid- to late 21st century (Cayan 2009, USBR 2011). They also show that precipitation may increase slightly until the middle of the century, which may be followed by a decline during the later part of the century. Although precipitation predictions are highly uncertain (Chung et al. 2009), projections of increases in temperature, predicted by all models, are more certain. The effect on snowpack and snowmelt of these projected temperature increases would be a significant change in the timing and magnitude of flows in the tributary rivers of the bay-delta system (USBR 2011). Sea Level Rise Sea level rise driven by global-scale climate change will affect, perhaps irreversibly, the bay-delta hydrodynamics, levee stability, and salinity con- ditions (Mount 2007, Lund et al. 2010). Higher ocean levels, particularly in the presence of tides, and storms, which may be exacerbated by ENSO conditions, will increase water depths and push salty water further inland, affecting vertical mixing. The exact effect of sea level rise depends on its magnitude. The historical rate of sea level rise at the Golden Gate is estimated to be about 2 mm/yr (equivalent to about 0.2 m over the 20th century). During the 20th century, the global mean sea level rise has been es- timated to be about 1.7 mm/yr (Church and White 2011). IPCC (2007) projected the sea level rise by 2100 to be in the range of 0.18 to 0.59 m but it did not include possible rapid changes in ice sheet dynamics. The current research suggests that, during the 21st century and beyond, sea level rise may accelerate, but the estimates of the rate of acceleration vary as indi- cated by the wide range of sea level rise suggested for 2100 in the literature. The uncertainties in projections have been attributed to the difficulties in
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 159 projecting the melt rate of land-based ice, particularly in Greenland and Antarctica. Temperature-based projections (Rahmstorf 2007) suggest that the global mean sea level rise may be as much as 1.4 m or more (Pfeffer et al. 2008, Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009). Clearly the magnitude of the future global sea level rise is uncertain but the range 0.18-1.4 m or the sea level rise that has been suggested by USACE (2011) should be useful for scenario planning in restoration efforts (e.g., Heberger et al. 2009, 2011). Effects of Climate Change on Delta Hydrology Climate change could have a variety of impacts on both natural and human systems in the bay-delta region. In terms of hydrologic changes, one of the key outcomes of warming will be to alter the temporal patterns of precipitation and tributary runoff. Under warmer conditions, precipitation during the winter will occur more as rain instead of snow and, as a conse- quence, the April 1 snowpack will decline (Mote et al. 2005, Knowles et al. 2006, Chung et al. 2009, USBR 2011), which will reduce the summer low flows (Maurer 2007). The modeling results indicate that the runoff re- sulting from increased rain during the winter months of December through March will increase during the 21st century (USBR 2011). However, the snowmelt runoff from tributaries during the April-July period will decrease with larger magnitudes expected during the later part of the 21st century. Such significant changes in the magnitude and timing of runoff into major reservoirs in the Central Valley could have important impacts in terms of reduced storage opportunities, less year-to-year carryover storage, and less water for cold-water releases during the hot summer months (USBR 2011). Unless changes to the operational rules are made, the increased runoff into major reservoirs in the tributary watersheds during winter months may have to be released earlier for flood protection. This would in turn reduce the amount of storage available to meet the demands during the follow- ing summer and fall. The recent records already show changes in timing of flows from the headwaters of the Sierra Nevada region (Dettinger et al. 2004, Knowles and Cayan 2004, Stewart et al. 2004, Vicuna and Dracup 2007, Kapnick and Hall 2009). With high confidence, it can be concluded that the future temperature increases will continue to cause changes in streamflow timing and such projected changes will exceed those from natural variability (Knowles and Cayan 2002, Maurer et al. 2007). For example, Chung et al. (2009) have shown that in case of a 4°C warming scenario, the average day by which Lake Oroville receives half its annual inflow shifts from mid-March to mid-February (about 36 days) and that the annual runoff fraction during the snowmelt period of April through July will decrease from about 35 percent to about 15 percent. Warming has the potential to increase evaporative losses from both
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160 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA soils and water bodies and as a consequence increase water demands of both agriculture and landscape irrigation. Increased CO2 will have complex interactions among processes affecting evapotranspiration from plants. Baldocchi and Wong (2006) have suggested that warming effects on agricul- ture may include the lengthening of the growing and transpiration seasons of the crops and a reduction of winter cold affecting fruit species. Groves et al. (2008) determined that climate change could increase the outdoor water demand by up to 10 percent by 2040 and decrease local water supply by up to 40 percent. With a decrease in spring and summer runoff, the difference between supply and demand will grow at a faster pace. Climate change will require a change in future operation and planning of water resources systems and the current regulatory policies (Willis et al. 2011). In a widely quoted paper, Milly et al. (2008) claimed that the tradi- tional "stationarity" assumption used in planning of water resources proj- ects was no longer viable or prudent. The changes in hydrology described above would pose significant challenges for the management of the water resources systems such as the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP). Willis et al. (2011) suggested that the "static" rules curves that exist today may perform poorly under the climate change scenario and that more flexible dynamic operating rules may be needed in the future (see Trimble et al.  for an example of such rules). The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in its 2008 Biological Assessment analyzed the sensitivity of future state and federal projects in the bay-delta region to potential climate change and associated sea level rise (USBR 2008), finding that CVP/SWP deliveries and carryover storages were sensitive to precipita- tion changes and sea level rise would lead to great salinity intrusion into the delta. Increased air temperature would reduce the cold-water storage of the reservoirs and increase temperature regimes of the major tributaries of the delta, which in turn would affect the survival of both delta smelt and salmon. The study also indicated that the negative flows in the Old and Middle rivers will increase under climate change scenarios, primarily during the winter, exacerbating fish entrainment at the CVP/SWP pumps. However, the study also found that uncertainty in precipitation projections makes it difficult to assess the level of impacts, as a potential increase in precipitation may offset the warming impacts. The Department of Water Resources conducted a separate modeling study to investigate the effects of climate change on both the federal and state water projects (Chung et al. 2009). The results (Table 4-1) suggest that the SWP/CVP water supply reliability would be affected significantly under the projected climate change scenarios. Reduction in delta exports to the Central Valley was predicted to be in the range of 7 to 21 percent and the water supply deficit in the south, resulting from such conditions, would likely be met by increased groundwater mining, exacerbating the current
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 161 TABLE 4-1 Summary of Water Resources Impacts Considering 12 Future Climate Scenarios Midcentury: End of Century: Some Uncertainty More Uncertainty Lower to Higher Lower to Higher GHG Emissions GHG Emissions Delta Exports 7 to 10% 21 to 25% Reservoir Carryover Storage 15 to 19% 33 to 38% Sacramento Valley Groundwater +5 to +9% +13 to +17% Pumping CVP Generation 4 to 11% 12 to 13% CVP Use 9 to 14% 24 to 28% SWP Generation 5 to 12% 15 to -16% SWP Use 5 to 10% 16% X2 Delta Salinity Standard Expected to be met Expected to be met System Vulnerability to 1 in 6 to 8 years 1 in 3 to 4 years Interruptiona Additional Water Needed to 750 to 575 TAF/yr 850 to 750 TAF/yr Meet Regulations and Maintain Operationsb NOTE: CVP, Central Valley Project; GHG, greenhouse gas; SWP, State Water Project; TAF, thousand acre-feet. a The SWP-CVP system is considered vulnerable to operational interruption during a year if the water level in one or more of the major supply reservoirs (Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and Trinity) is too low to release water from the reservoir. For current conditions, the SWP-CVP system is not considered vulnerable to operational interruption. b Additional water is needed only in years when reservoir levels fall below the reservoir outlets. SOURCE: Chung et al. (2009). problem of declining groundwater levels in the Central Valley (Famiglietti et al. 2011). Reservoir carryover storage, the quantity of water available on September 1 for improving water-supply reliability during the ensuing year, is expected to decline by 15 to 38 percent depending on the climate change scenario. Significantly, the study indicated that in some years the water levels in reservoirs may fall below the lowest release outlets leading to operational interruptions, which may occur as frequently as once every 3 years (Table 4-1). In spite of the water shortages, the CVP/SWP system was expected to meet the delta salinity standard related to the position of X2 ("delta salinity standard"). Other modeling suggests that there is consider- able physical and economic flexibility in the system, although at some cost (Tanaka et al. 2006, Harou et al. 2010, Buck et al. 2011). This flexibility likely will be needed to adapt to future conditions.
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162 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA Effects of Sea Level Rise Ecosystems physically connected to the ocean, such as the California bay-delta system, will have compounding effects of climate change due to accompanying sea level rise on both global and regional scales. Increases in ocean levels at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay will have significant impact on the upstream regions of the bay as well as the delta. A larger concern is the changes in the sea level extremes, which are exacerbated not only by the mean sea level, but also by astronomical tides, winter storms, and the presence of large-scale ocean phenomena such as El Niño. Predictions of the changes related to additional factors are uncertain but it is likely that today's extremes experienced by the bay-delta system will become more frequent. As discussed in the next section, the projected changes in both the aver- age and extreme sea levels in the interior of the delta may significantly af- fect the structural integrity of levees protecting delta islands. In view of the changes in the tidal fluctuations, particularly during storms, the frequency of levee failures and the flooding of delta islands are likely to increase. Historical efforts to control floods do not appear to have reduced the levee failure frequency (Florsheim and Dettinger 2007). The frequency of levee failure is likely to increase in the future with potential increases of flood flows from the upstream reservoirs as a result of timing change in runoff and increased water levels in the delta conveyance canals due to sea level rise. The dual effect of sea level rise and the increased flood flows will be largest when the astronomical and weather factors (e.g., high tides and sea level increases due to storms and teleconnections such as El Niño) and the peak discharges from the upstream coincide to create a rare combination of factors affecting the water levels in the bay and delta. Levee failures will flood delta islands, either permanently changing the geomorphology and the habitats of the delta system or requiring massive investment to reestablish the status quo. It has been suggested that restructuring of bay-delta habitats as a result of levee failure could increase habitat diversity, expand flood- plain area, and increase extent of open-water habitats. Such changes could improve conditions for some desirable delta fish species (Moyle et al. 2010). Another effect of sea level rise will be increased saltwater intrusion into freshwater parts of the delta system. When saltwater intrusion occurs in the interior parts of the delta, quality of water that is exported will degrade significantly and aquatic habitats will shift or may be eliminated entirely. Frequent interruptions of water supply to the south via the export pumps will clearly pose problems for providing adequate water supply for farmers and the urban users in Southern California (Medellin-Azuara et al. 2008, Chen et al. 2010). The ultimate result will be for the users south of the delta to depend on more and more groundwater supplies in the regions
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 163 to the south, which have already been mined through excessive pumping (Famiglietti et al. 2011). Permanent changes to the salinity levels in delta channels will also degrade the quality of water that is used for agriculture and other uses within the delta islands. Climate Change Effects on Water Temperature The water temperature in the delta and upper San Francisco Bay var- ies considerably through the year with a range of 7ºC to 30ºC (see Figure 4-1). While temperatures primarily vary seasonally, as seen in Figure 4-2B below, temperatures on any given day can be several degrees warmer or colder than the seasonal average. At any point in the system this temperature reflects the combined ef- fects of solar insolation, surface heat exchanges, river flow, and dispersion, as well as the temperatures in the rivers upstream and ocean downstream (Monismith et al. 2009). To examine the potential effects of climate change on delta temperatures, Wagner et al. (2011) created a statistical model based on fitting 10 years of data using an autoregressive model for daily water temperature as a function of air temperature and solar insolation. On the basis of this model, Wagner et al. argue that the effects of flow are generally small and are confined to shorter time scales, and so could be ne- FIGURE 4-1 Suisun Bay delta water temperature for the period 2000-2006. SOURCE: Data from California Data Exchange Center. R02208 Figure 4-1 bitmapped raster image scaled for portait above, landscape below
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180 SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE DELTA heavily on a workable governance system (see, e.g., recent NRC reviews of the Everglades restoration efforts cited above, and especially Chapter 5 of this report). CONCLUSIONS Habitat loss and alterations, climate change, and unpredictable levee failure pose significant challenges in the formulation of sustainable plans for the bay-delta ecosystem. There are many opportunities to steer the future evolution of the ecosystem by addressing future challenges. Extensive physical changes in the delta ecosystem and the tributary watersheds, and continuously evolving changes such as land subsidence in the delta islands, will not allow the recreation of habitat as it once existed in the predisturbance state. Delta restoration programs will need to balance consideration of an ecosystem approach with the Endangered Species Acts's (ESA's) and other factors' emphasis on individual species (e.g., NRC 1995). Programs will need to focus on the interaction of biological, structural, and physical aspects of habitats and how they may change in the future. Even without ESA-listed species, there still would be a need to guide the ecosys- tem toward desirable states. Climate change assessment provides a reasonable picture of what the delta may experience in the future and that picture needs to be incorporated into restoration planning. Such an outlook includes a larger fraction of winter precipitation occurring as rain in tributary watersheds in the Sierra Nevada, reduction in snowpack and correspondingly of water supply dur- ing late spring and summer, reduction in water-storage opportunities with a corresponding reduction in the ability to mitigate floods and meet minimum flow targets, challenges in managing the cold-water pools of the upstream reservoirs, and increased probability of water temperatures exceeding lethal limits for delta smelt, salmon, and other species. Many of these changes are already being observed. Projected increases in the mean sea level and the extremes have the potential to increase the frequency of levee failures and inundation of islands, particularly if upstream floods, astronomical tides, and winter storms coincide in the future when the mean sea level has increased due to warming. Sea level rise also has the potential to increase saltwater intrusion and degrade water quality with a significant impact on water exports. Dealing with climate change implications will require a nonstation- ary viewpoint that recognizes changes in hydrology, rising sea level, and increased temperature. Planning and evaluation of future scenarios will need to address the uncertainties in projections, integrated analysis, and the development of risk management strategies (e.g., adaptive management). Climate change implications and the continued increase in water demands
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ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 181 in the bay-delta system and beyond will exacerbate the competition for water and limit the ability to meet the co-equal goals. Future planning should include the development of a climate change based risk model and analysis that incorporates data on the actual changes in delta conditions as well as alternative future scenarios and their prob- ability. The objective should be to develop the basis for priorities for future investments in water-management programs. The real challenge is deciding how to adapt to a new environment. The uncertainties are higher about the environmental aspects of operations than about the reliability aspects of water deliveries. For example, expected environmental and other changes will force policy choices related to replacing water storage currently pro- vided by snow on the ground. Strategies to deal with the expected and un- precedented changes will need to consider many factors, including targeted demand management, increased surface-water and groundwater storage consistent with minimizing environmental impacts, enhanced flexibility in the water-management system through operational optimization and maxi- mum flexibility for moving water, and developing an understanding of and establishing environmental flows for the ecosystem. As described in more detail in Chapter 5, comprehensive strategies would include development of a planning and regulatory framework that incorporates concepts of shared adversity during times of water shortage. They also would include adop- tion of measures designed to mitigate water temperature increases that are harmful to fish species. The instability and interdependence of levees are likely to be major issues for achieving any measure of water-supply reliability or ecosystem rehabilitation. Continuing the status quo of improving levees will not al- ways be the most environmentally sustainable or economically defensible response in the years ahead. Indeed, changes in the levee system, and even removal or modification of some levees, could be good for at least parts of the ecosystem. Levee failures are inevitable over the long term and it is essential to plan for either the major investment needed to repair and main- tain the levees or the prospect of fundamental change. When considering repair of unstable (and breached) levees in the delta, a transparent and vet- ted prioritization system is needed. Future delta planning efforts should give full consideration to a wide range of alternatives for vulnerability reduction, including permanent evacuation of flood-prone areas and flood warning. Restoration projects should be designed with flexibility to accommodate potential changes in hydrology due to levee failure. Resource managers dealing with the delta will need to determine the degree of "restoration" achievable through intervention and adaptation. There is agreement that the delta as it existed before large-scale alteration by humans cannot be re-created. With respect to species, habitats, produc- tivity, and other aspects, the future delta will still be a functioning ecosystem
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