Thriving deltas: An adaptive approach
Richard Fisher and Ryan Whipple
Deltas are pinnacles of life: they provide environmental wealth to support biodiversity, human population centers, and industrial and agricultural production. Land use, water diversion, flooding, subsidence, salt water intrusion, and ultimately levee failure threaten these complex ecosystems and it is therefore important that dynamic approaches be taken to avoid disaster, and sustain thriving Deltas. This report focuses on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta but the lessons learned can be extended across the globe.
The Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta is the primary water resource for California’s urban and agricultural development. Sherman Island sits on the western edge of the Delta and is a critical geographic feature in balancing the flux of saltwater in the Delta. However, Sherman Island is at risk of catastrophic failure. Flooding, saltwater intrusion, and ongoing subsidence are current threats that become further exacerbated by global climate change. Through collaboration with industry representatives, inhabitants, academics, and local government officials, the environmental, social, and economic impacts of these issues were holistically addressed. The synthesis of stakeholder input with natural and engineered environments led to the design of an Adaptive Water Management and Agricultural Diversification System (AWMADS) composed of a levee enclosed flood storage and wetland habitat area that can dynamically support hydroponics (soil-less agriculture), aquaculture (concentrated production of aquatic species), and many other optional components over the system’s life. Engineering, socioeconomic, environmental impact and life cycle analyses, and exploration of mitigation strategies demonstrate the theoretical success of the system to protect against flooding, sequester carbon, restore habitats, and reinvigorate the local economy.