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How Changing Climate Will Impact the Flow of Sediment to the San Francisco Bay‐Delta

September 18, 2020

The health of the San Francisco Bay‐Delta depends on a sediment supply that has been recently declining due to sediment trapping in upstream reservoirs. Reduced sediment supply increases water clarity in the Bay-Delta, which in turn influences ecological processes and aquatic life.

USGS scientist conducting research on the San Francisco Bay‐Delta
USGS scientist Dave Schoellhamer conducts research on the San Francisco Bay‐Delta.

Sediment deposits are also essential to preserving and restoring wetlands, especially as sea levels rise. In an article published in the journal Water Resources Research, USGS scientists discuss their research modeling future climate scenarios to determine changes in streamflow and sediment transport. In this research a daily rainfall runoff and transport model of the Sacramento River Basin of northern California was developed to simulate streamflow and suspended sediment transport to the Bay‐Delta for the next century (water years, WY2010–2099). Results from the model showed potential increases in large flow events and sediment transport over the next century. While increased suspended sediment loads may have some negative effects, such as contaminant transport, increased sediment can improve fish habitats and help sustain wetlands in the Bay‐Delta.

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