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Increasing water scarcity in California's Bay-Delta will necessitate trade-offs; 'hard decisions' needed to balance various environmental risks
Date:3/29/2012

rom precipitation and snowmelt, which would likely occur earlier in the year than currently. In addition, projected sea-level rise and extremes of precipitation could increase the frequency of levee failure and the inundation of islands. Sea-level rise also has the potential to move more salt water into the delta and alter water quality. The committee recommended that future planning should include a climate change-based risk model, analysis that incorporates data on the actual changes in delta conditions, and alternative future climate scenarios and their probability.

Additionally, the instability of levees and potential of one levee failure to affect others are liable to be major issues for achieving any measure of water supply reliability or ecosystem rehabilitation. Continuing the status quo of improving levees will not always be the most environmentally sustainable or economically defensible response in the years ahead, the committee noted.

The lack of integrated, comprehensive planning has made science less useful in decision making for the delta, the committee said. It recommended that California review water planning and management in anticipation of future circumstances. This review should devote attention to water scarcity, balanced consideration of all statewide water uses and the practices that govern them, and available engineering alternatives. In the absence of a review, it would be difficult to resolve delta water management problems in other than a piecemeal fashion.

"Science is necessary to inform actions and proposals, but it does not provide the entire overview and integration that the committee recommends," said committee member Henry J. Vaux Jr., professor emeritus of resource economics at the University of California. "Societal and political considerations are also integral factors in determining the most appropriate policies toward managing the water resources in the delta and balancing the needs of all w
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Contact: Jennifer Walsh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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