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Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta (2012)

Chapter:5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning

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Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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5

Constraints and Opportunities for
Multifaceted Water Planning

INSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

Various studies and the development of plans related to water and environmental management in California’s bay delta have been conducted by multiple federal, state, local, and private entities. Their actions are motivated and directed by a variety of federal, state, and local legislation; rules and regulations; and private charters and agreements. The management activities are sometimes independent, other times overlapping, but often inadequately coordinated as part of integrated environmental management programs with clearly defined and agreed-on goals and objectives. This lack of integration and coordination applies also to the conduct and use of science. This assessment is not unique to the delta. Lack of such integration is a common feature of watershed management in the United States (NRC 1999, Imperial and Kauneckis 2005, Ruhl et al. 2007, Pfeffer and Wagenet 2011).

Although delta planning to date, as well as the committee’s task, has been focused on the delta, the committee concludes that delta planning cannot be successful if it is not integrated into statewide planning. The delta is fed by large upstream watersheds and water from the delta is used outside the region. Planning for alternative courses of action to meet delta needs will affect water needs upstream of the delta, in areas served by the state and federal projects, as well as water needs in the delta itself. Planning is required to meet public policy goals regarding the delta ecosystem as well as providing a reliable water supply. Planning will likely need to provide flexibility to reallocate water and accommodate wide-ranging watershed

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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practices, conservation, and demand management with regard to all uses, in stream and out of stream. Delta plans will affect and be affected by an important Colorado River basin linkage and other interbasin and interstate transfer agreements. In this chapter the committee attempts to identify some of the planning and water management characteristics that are needed as well of some of institutional opportunities that exist to address these needs.

Management of the water and environment of the delta is fragmented, as noted previously. One outcome of this is that decisions are often problem- or site-specific and not coordinated with related decisions made by other management agencies. For example, groundwater planning and assessment take place locally, but there is no coordination between local plans or statewide regulation of groundwater and it is not clear how the potential of groundwater storage has been incorporated into statewide plans. Rehabilitating an ecosystem requires a systems-oriented management approach, but decision making is almost always in response to the demands of particular and competing interests (Pfeffer and Wagenet 2011). Such reactive decision-making results in decisions that are narrowly cast at meeting specific demands or reconciling differences between the incompatible demands of competing interests. An obvious example of such interest-driven decision making is water allocation during drought when supplies are insufficient to meet all the agricultural, urban, industrial, and environmental demands. In such a situation it is important that a systematic, transparent process be in place to reconcile the demands of specific interests and to represent more general ecosystem needs. The absence of such a process has led to intense political competition for water resources while the adverse effects of scarcity are being felt.

A recent review of the structure and approach to California water planning by the Little Hoover Commission concluded that the fragmentation of management and resulting lack of system-level decision making could be addressed if there were a single entity accountable and in charge of California’s water planning (Little Hoover Commission 2010). That report laid out a possible organizational model, which is shown in Figure 5-1. This schematic identifies one possible configuration of responsibilities among the relevant state agencies in California, but such a framework also needs to address how federal responsibilities and interstate factors would be incorporated. There are other options. For example, Hanak et al. (2011), addressing the same issue, made a different but related proposal. A comprehensive vision for governance of California’s water policy has yet to be laid out, but it is critically needed if progress is to be made.

This committee did not conduct a management analysis such as that of the Little Hoover Commission Report, which is presented only as an example, but it is clear that the current organizational structure (or absence of structure) makes it difficult to develop a thoughtful, balanced, sustainable

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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FIGURE 5-1 One possible governance structure for comprehensive water governance in the state of California, proposed by the Little Hoover Commission. SOURCE: Reproduced from LHC (2010).

plan that could ensure rate and tax payers are making wise investments. The institutional arrangements that have characterized current, and to the best of our knowledge past, planning have not been suited to today’s task. These arrangements are the result of an attempt to balance the many vested interests whose work has created the sequential delta plans. In the committee’s judgment, California water and environmental planning should include integrated strategies based on current scientific knowledge, and regional and watershed plans. It should take advantage of the best practices and facilities available. It needs to be credible and independent and include relevant statewide if not interstate (Colorado River basin) considerations. It should be designed to achieve constitutional requirements for all reasonable uses, to meet and anticipate environmental requirements, and to provide a guideline for local and regional options, where such options are not inconsistent with the long-term goals of statewide water management.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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Some Considerations for Water Management

Several fundamental issues have yet to be addressed in current state and federal planning efforts for the delta. These include, but are not limited to

•   providing a workable, operational definition of “co-equal” goals of restoration and water supply reliability (see Chapter 2) in the context of other needs such as flood risk management and navigation;

•   reconciling individual endangered species requirements with other priorities;

•   understanding the effects of levee failure on habitat conservation measures and water supplies;

•   assessing the effectiveness of adaptive management when the reliability of water diversions is a goal (if reliability of diversions is a goal, the flexibility to manage adaptively might not be present);

•   understanding the effects of climate change–altered precipitation and runoff on reliability of water supply and related short- and long-term conservation measures;

•   evaluating long-term cost of habitat-conservation measures and water-supply reliability measures in light of the principle that beneficiaries pay and with the value of the long-term investments of taxpayers and water users in mind; and

•   developing methods for assessing the costs and benefits of public investments in levee security resulting from protecting delta agriculture, and methods for assessing whether and when to stop maintaining the levees.

If these and other issues are not addressed in statewide planning, they should be addressed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) (see NRC 2011), the Delta Plan, and other delta planning efforts. Some of the more-focused issues that have not been addressed in current planning include

•   dealing with current legal constraints and protections with regard to groundwater storage and optimal water transfers, particularly considering long-term reliability of supply and sustainability of storage;

•   achieving statewide optimization of water use and equity with regard to water-conservation practices and reuse, urban and agriculture, and environmental allocations during drought periods; and

•   a full consideration of alternatives for managing the stressors on the ecosystem, the costs of reducing or remediating them, and their implications for other beneficial uses.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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Recent substantial rainfall (especially in 2010), success in water-conservation measures (particularly in the urban sector), and some interim measures such as the facilitation of transfers between users and ground-water storage could provide some breathing room. This is particularly true since some utilities believe that water demands are not expected to return to levels of the early 2000s until about 2020. This period should be seen as an opportunity to build an improved water management system (and plan) cognizant of the realities of long-term water scarcity and sufficiently integrated to deal with that scarcity. If the period of reduced stress is wasted, it could be too late to build a more enlightened approach when the severity and impacts of shortage increase.

A key element in discussions of future water-management options in the delta is the isolated conveyance facility (peripheral canal or tunnel, the principal element of the dual conveyance strategy). Some experts have advocated such a facility since the 1960s. To the northern California public it has become an icon of objection to the impacts of growth in California. Its final form has not been agreed on, but a prominent version as described in the BDCP has been a tunnel(s) under the delta with five screened intakes located downstream of the discharge of the Sacramento regional sewage treatment plant. An isolated conveyance facility is a central element of the BDCP, where it has been described as a conservation measure, and it or something like it has been a focus of discussion in the delta for five decades. The committee has not analyzed the benefits and disadvantages of an isolated conveyance facility, because not enough specific information was available about it (see NRC 2011), and we make no recommendation with respect to its adoption as a major part of water management in the delta.

However, the committee does recommend that before a decision is made whether to construct such a facility and in what form, the sizing of the facility, its location, and the diversion design and operation, including the role of current diversions, should be analyzed as part of any integrated delta plan, and compared to alternative water management options, including current operations. All the alternatives should be evaluated to ensure that the investment currently estimated at between $8 and $12 billion (with considerable uncertainty) will meet both environmental and water-supply objectives. Sustainability, reliability, and environmental objectives require that the design of any new system be as flexible as possible to manage varying and unpredictable flows. Operations should be able to meet adaptive management goals and to routinely and frequently rebalance ecological protection with water supply reliability. The above considerations would apply to any new construction to manage water flows in and around the delta.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

Current Management Limitations

Stakeholder advocacy preferences are currently driving delta and related water programs in California. These are reflected in the sequence of delta plans beginning in the 1960s, the current status of environmental review of actions and projects, and most importantly the increasing tendency to design activities as to minimize objections of any politically consequential view. One way of looking at the current situation is that existing laws and regulations are implemented only to the extent that they satisfy significant interests. Nor does such a process inspire public trust. Recognition of this difficulty has led to “collaborative” planning approaches, such as the BDCP, where stakeholders are invited to participate (see NRC [2011] for a review of a draft of the BDCP). However, without any formal structured decision-support process to organize the wealth of information available or to allow preferences to be expressed in quantitative terms, broadly acceptable and effective solutions for resolving delta issues have been hard to come by. Perhaps more important, it has not been clear who has provided the charge to the collaborative decision-making process or body, and to whom the resulting decisions are addressed. In other words, who asked for the process, and who will decide how and whether to execute its recommendations?

The current management approach appears to try to design the restoration and reliability program by committee, directly or indirectly, since authors of various parts of the plan realistically anticipate the reception that various measures might receive. As a result, alternatives, mitigations, or numerical assessments that might cast doubt on a particular course of action can be given limited attention or even be ignored. Trade-offs are rarely analyzed or presented transparently. Such a process reflects inadequacies in leadership that if continued will fail to inspire the kind of public support essential to moving forward constructively.

For many reasons, not the least of which are specific court rulings, water management in the delta in recent years has been reactive and singular rather than proactive and comprehensive. Planning for the future should reflect a clear vision of future water use and availability that recognizes the likelihood of future variability, and that the water management desires of all sectors or interests cannot be fully met. Such planning should create a basis for public comparison of alternative scenarios and strategies, including costs and benefits. It should incorporate a variety of well explained and documented models that include life cycles of individual species, as well as multielement strategies. The committee recognizes that there are many uses of the delta and its waters and the requirements of diverse statutes, regulations, and policies might not always be consistent with each other.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

This does not negate the need for comprehensive planning; rather, it makes it more urgent. But it does make it more difficult.

Ideally public policy such as the established “co-equal goals” would precede the development of a plan: objective and complete analysis of needs and solutions for achieving environmental restoration, reliable water supply, and anticipated future requirements. Then goals would be reconsidered in whole or in part, in light of the activities necessary to achieve them. In that way the BDCP and the delta plans could inform California policy for the future. Recent individual Endangered Species Act (ESA) court rulings that have led to changes in water exports from the delta, together with the planning thus far, represent a collection of discrete pieces of important information, and not a balanced and prioritized set of recommendations constituting a strategic plan for the state. Achievement of a scientifically, technically, and societally supportable plan requires the individual and collective consideration of “significant environmental factors,” a quantified effects analysis, and goal-based adaptive management programs that provide a platform for future investments in water-supply and restoration activities. These all require clear-headed decision making and leadership that are difficult to come by if governance of the plan or water management as a whole remains fragmented.

In considering ways to improve water planning and management for the delta, it is logical to search for examples here or abroad that have achieved success, or approaches that have allowed disparate opinions to converge toward a common goal. The committee could not identify any examples that would achieve every aspect of the process described here. However, several examples provide aspects of good governance that could be informative for the delta. The examples include the Ruhrverband in the Ruhr River watershed in Germany,1 the Murray Darling Basin Authority in Australia,2 a study of long-term augmentation of the water supply of the Colorado River system (Colorado River Water Consultants 2008), and the South Florida Water Management District and restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem in Florida (USACE and SFWMD 1999, NRC 2006, 2008, 2010).

Managing Science

In the examples above, the independent water agency’s functions included monitoring, data management, and research: coordinating and using science. The need for a strong science component to water management is increasingly well accepted (Jacobs et al. 2003). But the degree to

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1 See http://www.ruhrverband.de/en. Accessed July 17, 2012.

2 See http://www.mdba.gov.au/. Accessed July 17, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

which science is integrated into water management will depend on how it is managed. The South Florida Water Management District, which has large responsibility for the restoration of Florida’s Everglades, is, like the Ruhrverband, an example of a water agency with a strong technical staff that is well integrated into the water management system. At its inception science management was also an important aspect of CALFED, in the form of a formal Science Program. The Science Program is one of the few aspects of the CALFED that was retained by the Delta Stewardship Council although with considerably less funding. An informal poll of stakeholders held in 2005 as CALFED was evolving into the Delta Stewardship Council (Chapter 2) found stronger support for sustaining the Science Program than for almost any other element of the program (Sam Luoma, University of California, Davis, personal communication, February 2012). Important elements of the science program include an independent lead scientist, with authority to report directly to the governing council; using consultation with experts and stakeholders to define strategic science directions; funding research proposals only if they pass robust peer review; and fostering communication about the technical aspects of controversial policy issues via dialogue and reviews using independent experts (the program has involved many independent experts from outside the bay delta). These “meetings” are focused on reaching consensus on uncertainties and identifying next steps to resolving those uncertainties. Advocacy debates are explicitly avoided. All meetings are open to the public.

Water planning and management for the delta occur in the context of statewide California water planning. The committee has considered a variety of institutional models and factors that illustrate some of the important attributes of an effective water-management approach, including a watershed-based scope, consideration of water resource sources and uses of both surface and groundwater, incorporation of water-quality considerations for all environmental and consumptive uses, coordination with existing agencies, the ability to conduct independent research and scientific analyses, a commitment to community engagement, and oversight of monitoring. All the factors are linked in some way to water management in the delta. Given the history and disagreements regarding science and water planning, an independent structure of some sort (without the committed missions of any state or federal agency) could provide for the appearance and reality of objective guidance. This would enhance credibility and the likelihood that the delta and statewide water interests are broadly considered and balanced.

The committee has mentioned organizations and activites in the United States and elsewhere that contain elements of good governance that could be informative for the delta (above). There is no best model for California. The existing web of water institutions would be best aided by a new professional planning function that could provide decision makers and managers

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

with science-based guidance, particularly regarding the tradeoffs, costs, benefits, and likely environmental consequences of alternative courses of action, and better integration of local and regional water management activities within a statewide environmental and water planning framework.

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE

California has been making major investments in its water and environmental infrastructure for decades, including varying amounts of support for science specifically to inform management actions. Many of the findings from monitoring and scientific studies, especially since the late 1990s, have affected the strategic view of California’s water issues. For example, recognition of the threatened status of a number of species native to the delta stems from the approximately 60 years of aquatic monitoring in the system, led since 1970 by the Interagency Ecological Program. This is no small accomplishment. Places with analogous issues (e.g., the Murray-Darling system in Australia) have no such systematic biological monitoring. One of the early syntheses of scientific knowledge about San Francisco Bay (Jassby et al. 1995) formed the basis and justification for a regulatory approach that remains a core ingredient in managing water for the delta (managing the position of X2; see Chapters 1 and 3). As a result of numerous studies through the past 15 years, we now have a robust understanding of the likely implications of climate change for water management in the delta (and California in general).

Recent multidisciplinary studies that tie together complex models to evaluate different climate change scenarios provide a model for future efforts on how to address the challenges these changes will present (Cloern et al. 2007). Our basic understanding of hydrodynamics in the delta has changed from an assumption that net inflows from rivers drove the major processes to an appreciation of the strong role of tides during much of the year. The ecology of the delta itself was essentially unknown as late as the mid-1990s; much has been learned that has implicitly, if not explicitly, changed the way that scientific and policy problems are addressed. These are but a few of many possible examples of the importance of a strong science underpinning to support policy needs in this system. The committee recommends that whatever management structure is carried forward, that the strong combination of monitoring and assessment, agency driven science, and academic peer-reviewed proposal-driven science be perpetuated.

On the other hand, it is clear that managers, policy makers, scientists, judges, and the public have struggled to interpret information about the delta and its inhabitants, and they have struggled to find consensus on critical aspects of policy based on that and other information. This committee has struggled, too, as have others, with both the scientific information

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

available and how to move forward. Indeed, there are genuine scientific uncertainties. While it is clear how the delta has changed in many ways, and that many aspects of its environment are less hospitable to many of the organisms that live there than they used to be, it often is difficult to unequivocally identify any one factor responsible for any specific ecological change. It remains difficult to forecast the outcome of specific rehabilitation actions with much confidence. It also is very difficult to identify cause and effect by correlating the timing of human-caused environmental changes and the timing of resultant ecological changes. However, the committee remains confident that science can be useful to policy makers in and around the delta.

Many authors have discussed the challenges in establishing an effective relationship between science and policy in an uncertain environment (e.g., Lubchenco 1998, Policansky 1998, Lawton 2007). Sarewitz (2004) even suggested that science makes environmental controversies worse! The difficulties often revolve around a lack of clear articulation of values and goals. Indeed, uncertainty can be used to make decisions to undertake expensive actions difficult to justify and easy to oppose. This problem has been all too evident in the delta in recent years as evidenced by the return to litigation around 2004. However, uncertainty does not have to lead to conflict. If at least a portion of the scientific dialogue is directed toward identifying areas of disagreement, rather than who is right and who is wrong, consensus is at least possible on next steps (Jacobs et al. 2003), and management of conflict can be improved. CALFED experimented with this type of dialogue (Jacobs et al. 2003), but that approach appears to have eroded over time.

Managing conflict is only one ingredient in making progress on policy via constructive use of science, however. Much good science has been conducted in and around the delta. However, there has been inadequate construction of the resulting knowledge into consensus for action. That has not been for want of trying. One part of the problem is that conflict and litigation among different interest groups have soured what collaborations and trust once existed. But it appears to this committee that a second, more important problem is present; it is that a successful method of governance—in the broad sense—of the state, the delta, and of science has not taken root. This lack of a leadership model is a major contributor to the controversies, litigation, disagreements, and continuing lack of consensus.

While it is beyond the charge of the committee to specify a reorganization of science or the science-policy relationships that would lead to rehabilitating the delta, it has identified some problem areas whose resolution would be helpful and some of the ingredients for such a resolution. An independent leadership position is needed that is charged with accruing scientific knowledge into a coherent conceptual model. Another way to say this is that nobody is yet charged with, or even tries, to construct coherent

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

stories of how a large, interacting, complex system (or significantly complex pieces of it) work. Excellent work is done by universities, by state and federal agencies, by consultants, and by commissions and committees, but there are few if any successful examples of synthesizing the information or for gaining scientific consensus. The white papers that were commissioned by CALFED were an attempt at drawing together such consensus, but they have had only a minor impact. It has been evident during the tenure of this committee that dueling scientific presentations are more common than collaborations between scientists from different backgrounds and with differing sources of financial support. In other arenas, where the goals are more clearly defined and more widely shared (e.g., medicine, space exploration, defense), collaboration and consensus on next steps among university, industry, and agency scientists seem to be more common and effective. But in all these cases a leader is essential who can focus on identifying the path forward based on what was learned to date. In the delta, one possible solution is that the Delta Stewardship Council’s independent lead scientist job might be reframed to focus on leading and reporting out on the synthesis efforts, leaving management responsibilities to a separate leadership position.

In general, nonscientist governance professionals have difficulty defining for scientists what they want or need to know. Similarly, scientists have difficulty defining what kind of knowledge or evidence nonscientist governance professionals would accept as a basis for actions and for defining alternatives. These gaps need bridging for science to be most responsive to decision makers’ needs, but there does not appear to be a strong incentive for scientists and nonscientist professionals to bridge these gaps. It probably is not possible for governance professionals to set forth in a specified way what science they need to know, and what kind of science they would accept as a basis for actions, but this committee judges that a collaborative effort is needed, where scientists and governance professionals work together as a single team, rather than as two separate entities. Critical questions to be addressed by such a team include how one characterizes risk and how one assesses the degree to which risks are acceptable, what tools are available for dealing with uncertainty, and what methods are available for assessing trade-offs among options. Such conversations should lead to better ways that scientists can contribute to addressing such questions. Below and in Appendix F the committee discusses collaborative modeling as an example of this kind of approach.

Finally, there needs to be an honest assessment of how reliable all the scientific information is. For example, censusing widely but patchily distributed small fishes like adult delta smelt and juvenile striped bass, just to name two, is an extremely challenging endeavor. It is difficult to distinguish population fluctuations from changes in distribution. If one samples in the same places each year, and one records a change in the number of fish

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

sampled, it will not be clear whether the change is due to a change in population size or a change in distribution. If, on the other hand, sampling sites often change, then it becomes easier to miss a genuine change in population size. This is a difficult problem. It can be solved, but solving it is very expensive and takes time. Of course almost any sampling scheme will distinguish between a population that is widespread and abundant and one that is small and patchy, but that is too coarse a filter for the problem at hand.

FUTURE UNCERTAINTIES AND UNKNOWNS

Scientific understanding of the ecological functioning of the delta is not complete, and never will be. Many unknowns contribute to the difficulties in formulating plans for ensuring sustainability. For example, the factors affecting the pelagic organism decline (POD) are not completely understood. The relative importance of water exports and other stressors are difficult to quantify. As a result of the lack of knowledge regarding the ecological functions in the delta, quantification of how various water-management options affect the ecosystem is not straightforward. Although the quantification of the water-supply needs for agricultural and urban users of the system with reasonable accuracy is possible, without clearly being able to include the regime of freshwater availability necessary to sustain desired components of the ecosystem, it is not possible to identify trade-offs and conduct multifaceted planning in balancing the goals of the water resources management in the delta system.

The future of the greater delta system is determined by major drivers of change, some of which are irreversible (Chapters 3 and 4). Future states of these drivers cannot be predicted in detail because of many uncertainties. Such drivers include, but are not limited to (a) land subsidence, (b) invasive species, (c) human population growth and urbanization, (d) seismicity, and (e) climate change and sea level rise (Mount et al. 2006, Dettinger and Culberson 2008, Lund et al. 2010). Most of these drivers are already altering the delta irreversibly.

California’s population is likely to continue to grow in this century, and the projected water shortage in the coming decades is significant. In particular, the largest increase is expected to be in the south, which depends on the tributaries of the delta for its water supply. Although groundwater mining in the San Joaquin Valley has supplemented water needs during dry years, it is uncertain to what extent such a source will continue to meet the shortfalls.

The frequency and occurrence of earthquakes in the delta region cannot be predicted with certainty. The stability of levees during earthquakes also is difficult to predict. Risk-assessment techniques are available to evaluate probabilities and related costs to aid decision making. Because these risks

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
×

affect statewide water use, they should be assessed as part of a comprehensive program.

Perhaps the most significant uncertainty lies in the impacts of climate change and sea level rise (Chapter 4). Although there is increasing evidence as to how warming may affect hydrology, there are significant uncertainties in the future scenarios that should be used in planning (NRC 2011). Moreover, sea level rise predictions have very wide ranges. Depending on the magnitude of sea level rise, the resulting impact on the delta and its functioning can be significantly different. The exact impact of the multiple factors such as potential increase in flood and drought magnitude and frequency, increased sea level and its extremes, changing runoff patterns and habitat quality on the integrity of the levees, water supply to users, and the ecological functioning of the delta is not known precisely.

The above uncertainties should not be allowed to lead to paralysis. Much is known. But the above uncertainties suggest that agencies should consider an array of possible future states, and such an approach should assume “universal nonstationarity,” or the idea that all aspects of the environment will constantly be changing. This implies that agencies should develop adaptive strategies for a multitude of possibilities within a broad range including extirpation of listed species and collapse of vital ecological services. Each “future” should be characterized by particular configuration of climatic regime, plausible physical system changes, water demands, and the ecological habitats. In such a setting, it is clear that water resources planning would demand flexibility not only in infrastructure but also water supply options, and dynamic operations.

Several approaches exist to consider these “wicked” problems (Rittel and Webber 1973, Conklin 2005), where uncertainty cannot be fully eliminated by study and not all aspects of the problem can be adequately quantified. The committee recommends that future water resource planning in the delta include one or more of these approaches (e.g., robust decision making and shared vision planning) to explore the multiple consequences of decisions. They are described in some detail in Appendix F.

Perhaps most critical is the need to rationalize the responsibilities for decision making. Who gives the charge to the collaborative decision-making body is an essential element because whoever gives the charge controls the process. Similarly, who does the collaborative decision-making body report to? Who decides whether and how its recommendations are met? Unless these questions can be satisfactorily answered by the people of California and their representatives, the problem of managing and allocating delta water is unlikely to be satisfactorily resolved.

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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A PATH FORWARD: CONCLUSIONS

The committee concludes that the lack of explicitly integrated comprehensive environmental and water planning and management results in decision making that is inadequate to meet the delta’s and the state’s diverse needs, including environmental and ecological conditions in the delta. In addition, the lack of integrated, comprehensive planning has hindered the conduct of science and its usefulness in decision making.

Many efforts have been made to improve state and federal water planning, management, and regulation. Examples include the Porter Cologne Act in 1969 (particularly the Basin Plans), the Clean Water Act of 1972 (particularly § 208), and the Urban Water Management Planning Act of 1985, together with recent amendments, state funding for watershed planning activities, local groundwater planning, recent legislation on improving groundwater use databases, and a variety of other regulations and laws designed to improve water management. Each of these efforts recognizes that water science and technology should support planning that is comprehensive and that considers quality and quantity, considers the environment and economics, and does so transparently to gain public confidence.

The committee recommends that California undertake a comprehensive review of its water planning and management functioning and design modifications to existing responsibilities and organizations that will anticipate future needs, including those identified in this report. These needs include dealing with scarcity, balanced consideration of all statewide water-use practices and hardware alternatives, and adaptive management that can adjust to changing conditions. The result should be that regions such as the delta can be effective partners in a coordinated statewide effort.

With respect to water transfers discussed in Chapter 2, the state should facilitate voluntary transfers and identify buyers and sellers for both short-term and long-term needs. An essential element might be options to purchase dry-year entitlements. Thus, reliability-dependent users—urban, industrial, and agricultural—would have some long-term confidence that shortages would be minimized by a predictable amount. As part of its oversight of such transfers, the state must ensure that necessary instream flow levels are maintained.

Delta conditions identified in previous chapters indicate that scarcity of water for all needs will become severe. While more effective planning is being developed, the state will need to get the most overall value from its water resources. A variety of tools are available, including demand-side management (conservation, including more-efficient and more-productive water use) and supply-side management (water transfers, new sources of supply, more-integrated management of groundwater and surface water, enforcement of the constitutional reasonable and beneficial use limita-

Suggested Citation:"5 Constraints and Opportunities for Multifaceted Water Planning." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13394.
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tions, and invocation of the state public trust doctrine to reconsider past allocation decisions). The flexible integration of these tools across a large, complex network provides the adaptive capabilities needed to respond to uncertainty.

Although the committee does not have a recommendation for a specific organizational strategy, because that needs to be decided by the people of California, it does have recommendations for the characteristics such an organization should have. They include independence and authority; that is, decisions should be not only enforceable but also accepted as legitimate by most of the stakeholders affected. These are difficult to achieve. Independence and authority require a funding source to provide the administrative capacity to administer a full range of watershed-management tools to enforce and incentivize compliance with rules and procedures; this might be the exclusive province of the legislature, or some entity created and given authority by the legislature. In any case, a method needs to be found to incorporate the public’s desires and to achieve the public’s trust while allowing for decisions that are made with the broader public interest in mind.

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Extensively modified over the last century and a half, California's San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary remains biologically diverse and functions as a central element in California's water supply system. Uncertainties about the future, actions taken under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and companion California statues, and lawsuits have led to conflict concerning the timing and amount of water that can be diverted from the Delta for agriculture, municipal, and industrial purposes and concerning how much water is needed to protect the Delta ecosystem and its component species.

Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta focuses on scientific questions, assumptions, and conclusions underlying water-management alternatives and reviews the initial public draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan in terms of adequacy of its use of science and adaptive management. In addition, this report identifies the factors that may be contributing to the decline of federally listed species, recommend future water-supple and delivery options that reflect proper consideration of climate change and compatibility with objectives of maintaining a sustainable Bay-Delta ecosystem, advises what degree of restoration of the Delta system is likely to be attainable, and provides metrics that can be used by resource managers to measure progress toward restoration goals.

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