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Application of an unstructured 3D finite volume numerical model to flows and salinity dynamics in the San Francisco Bay-Delta

June 4, 2017

A linked modeling approach has been undertaken to understand the impacts of climate and infrastructure on aquatic ecology and water quality in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region. The Delft3D Flexible Mesh modeling suite is used in this effort for its 3D hydrodynamics, salinity, temperature and sediment dynamics, phytoplankton and water-quality coupling infrastructure, and linkage to a habitat suitability model. The hydrodynamic model component of the suite is D-Flow FM, a new 3D unstructured finite-volume model based on the Delft3D model. In this paper, D-Flow FM is applied to the San Francisco Bay-Delta to investigate tidal, seasonal and annual dynamics of water levels, river flows and salinity under historical environmental and infrastructural conditions. The model is driven by historical winds, tides, ocean salinity, and river flows, and includes federal, state, and local freshwater withdrawals, and regional gate and barrier operations. The model is calibrated over a 9-month period, and subsequently validated for water levels, flows, and 3D salinity dynamics over a 2 year period.

Model performance was quantified using several model assessment metrics and visualized through target diagrams. These metrics indicate that the model accurately estimated water levels, flows, and salinity over wide-ranging tidal and fluvial conditions, and the model can be used to investigate detailed circulation and salinity patterns throughout the Bay-Delta. The hydrodynamics produced through this effort will be used to drive affiliated sediment, phytoplankton, and contaminant hindcast efforts and habitat suitability assessments for fish and bivalves. The modeling framework applied here will serve as a baseline to ultimately shed light on potential ecosystem change over the current century.