California's River Delta Needs Back Up Before Disaster Hits (Video)

sacramento san juaquin river delta photo

Photo via wikipedia

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is a major hub for California's agriculture and water, serving 23 million people and 3 million acres of crop and grazing land. It's also the home of over 700 native species of plants an animals. Yet around 220 government agencies have jurisdiction in the Delta, which means managing it can sometimes get hairy as interests compete. A network of earthen levees keeps the delta's residents protected from flooding, and keeps the state's agricultural sector connected to water sources. But the levees can't hold up against the impacts of climate change like sea level rise, and they can't wait for competing groups to get it together. Enter RESIN! Physorg reports that better management of the overlapping infrastructure systems is the goal of researchers at UC Berkeley who are heading up a four-year, $2 million project called Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructures (RESIN).

With a 99% chance of flooding within the next 50 years on 13 Delta islands, with sea level rise changing the 100-year peak tide event to a 10-year peak tide event, and with the constant threat of earthquakes, the stakes for a successful project are relatively high.

"If, in fact, we lost power here, that power would affect our ability to pump natural gas," said Don Boland, executive director of the California Utilities Emergency Association, motioning to a pump station not far from Highway 160 in the northern part of Sherman Island. "It's going to affect our ability to power our water systems, our pumping stations, and our lift stations."

According to UC Berkeley, "A workable solution to this threat has eluded California for decades as the fishing community and environmentalists fight to maintain water flows for Delta smelt and Chinook salmon, while thirsty water users further south battle to keep their crops irrigated and residents supplied."

Unfortunately, politics are involved, as would be expected with a couple hundred government agencies have jurisdiction and when the area is such an important part of agriculture, which we know carries a lot of money and powerful lobbyists.

"The Delta's problems are massively complex at a technical level, but it's all overlaid by politics," said Seed. "It's about the guys who want water versus those who protect the fish, but the guys doing the fighting aren't even worried about the seismic risk...There is no other system in the world as complex as the Delta."

There are over 1,100 miles of levees to improve, the livelihood of native species to protect, the fresh water to manage, and the needs of Americans who have to eat all to consider. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is a prime example of the systems we've put in place that, while they' help us, they also put us right in harm's way.

RESIN, or Resilience & Sustainability of Critical Infrastructure Systems, is a new organization that is working to facilitate cooperation among competing interests. Over the next four years, the group will help get everyone organized so that water supply, power supply, flood protection and ecosystem protection are all given their fair share of attention.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter
More on California's Rivers
6 Solutions for California's Water Crisis and How We Can Help
Could We See Another Katrina in California?
Bush Administration Says No to $70 Million Salmon Disaster Relief but Yes to $700 Billion Bailout

Related Content on