Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Vince Makowski makes this connection here…

The news entitled “California Releases Part of Plan to Restore Delta” was reported by The Associated Press, in the KGO-TV San Francisco, California online news on Thursday, March 14, 2013.  The news relates the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of the movement and distribution of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. The article expresses the main points of the beginning chapters of a $23 billion plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta.  The plan recommends a twin tunnel system be built to carry water to farmlands and cities.  The project would be responsible for pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta to 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland.  This new project is being proposed because regulations on pumping limit the amount of water allowed to be pumped out of the delta.  These regulations are in place in order to protect the fish and wildlife of the delta.  The article states the plan has “more than 200 biological goals and objectives for 57 fish and other species.”  This is in response to the threatened species in the delta ecosystem.  The main concern of the article and critics of the plan is the concern for the wildlife.  Critics question the technology and science required to build the project.  One critic states the twin tunnel project is “highly experimental.”  Farmers who rely on the delta for irrigation are also hesitant on the project, concerned about the well-being of their crops.  The wildlife and agriculture surrounding the delta should be among the top concerns of the project organization.  Diverting water can have major impacts on the ecosystem, and although the plan intends to restore the ecosystem and fish population, reverse affects could be possible (Wurbs and James 2002).  With my understanding the twin tunnel system has several variables depending on inflow, outflow demand, pumps, pipe dimensions, etc. but the technology seems to be accessible.  I am less familiar with impacts of wildlife however.  In response to the proposed plan, The Golden Gate Salmon Association announced its concerns in regards to salmon populations and species.  There seem to be numerous concerns about the twin tunnel project altering the delta and its ecosystem (Bacher).  The article leaves out much detail about the actual twin tunnel design.  It would be interesting to know more about the plans and how they relate to the economic and environmental impacts.

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Figure 1 – Houses located in the Pocket Area of Sacramento, California along the Sacramento River

The issue of water distribution in this article impacts the broader WRE context areas of economics and environment.  As previously discussed, concerns for wildlife are a major topic of discussion in relation to the article.  The fish species are already threatened by the current pumping of the delta, and critics are concerned there may be an even bigger threat with the construction of the new twin tunnel project.  The pumping stations may also introduce a new threat to the fish, if the proposed fish screens do not produce enough protection.  Farmers are concerned with irrigation for their crops.  They claim they will not have adequate irrigation from the delta once the twin tunnel project is implemented.  Both of these economic and environmental impacts have been concerns of several years.  In 2010, pump restrictions were lifted, which resulted in a major concern for salmon and steelhead fish in the delta (Planning and Conservation League).  This concern again arises with the current project, where the pumping stations may result in the decrease of population of fish species.  By installing pumping stations and diverting water, causing water levels in the delta to fluctuate, the fish population and other species may be negatively affected.  However, it is unclear as to if they will be affected or to what extent they will be.

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