Climate Change and Water Resources

How can we predict climate-induced sea level rise, increases in flooding frequency and increases in water temperature in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta?

Recent reports by Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, and colleagues combined models of urbanization and climate change with models for water availability in the year 2100. They built on an earlier report that estimated climate changes for 2020.

 

 How is Lake Tahoe responding to climate change?

There has been a measured increase in the temperature of the lake over the last 40 years. The warming of the lake is double the rate of warming of the surface of the world’s oceans. Rises in lake temperature have profound impacts on the lake ecology. Research by Geoff Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, and others looks at the impacts of climate change on algal species composition, invasive fish and aquatic weed populations, and the food web.

 

 What do we know about climate change effects on fish habitat and species in California?

Peter Moyle, professor of wildlife, fish, and conservation biology, has developed methods to determine the health of mountain meadows by inventorying communities of plants, fish, aquatic invertebrates and amphibians. He is reviewing the status of all distinctive types of salmonid fishes in California, and he conducted long-term studies of fish in Sierra Nevada streams, Putah Creek and in Suisun Marsh. His research program involves developing strategies for floodplain fish conservation in the Central Valley.

Greg Pasternack, professor of land, air, and water resources, built a model to predict the number of days each year that the flow of a river prepares it for salmonids to spawn and support embryo incubation. Environmental managers may use this model to compare different rivers for their restoration potential as well as the impact of climate change on the native anadromous fish populations.

 

How will climate change affect water resources in the arid western U.S., and how can these effects be managed or mitigated?

Important questions include whether increased rain and less snow (e.g., in California) will increase groundwater storage in the central and coastal valleys, and whether vast underground storage space can be used to offset the loss of surface reservoir space. The research of Graham Fogg, professor of land, air, and water resources looks promising as a means of recharging groundwater during periods of high rainfall and runoff. His work on long-term sustainability of groundwater quality is critical for assessing water quality from underground water storage projects.

 

How will changes in sea level affect communities up-river?

As the sea level rises, salty seawater will intrude up estuaries and into the lower portions of rivers and into groundwater aquifers, according to research by John Largier, who works in the Bodega Marine Laboratory and environmental science and policy. In flat lands, a foot increase in sea level may result in salinity intruding miles up-river during dry periods.

 

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