According to the California Department of Water Resources, climate change is already having an impact on California’s water resources and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Existing climate change models predict that warmer temperatures, changing patterns of precipitation and run-off and rising sea levels will profoundly affect the Delta ecosystem and ecology.

The Public Policy Institute of California points out that climate change has particularly serious implications for the Delta’s weakened levee system.  Climate change is expected to increase flood risks as sea levels rise.

“The Pacific Institute found that 55 inches of sea level rise, near
the high end of projections for 2100, will put nearly half a million residents at high risk of flooding and threaten critical infrastructure, including airports and 3,550 miles of roadways. Risk prevention plans that also protect coastal ecosystems are needed.” – PPIC

The California WaterFix raises similar concerns about the Delta’s current ability to sustain the potential associated impacts of climate change, including the Delta’s aging levee system.  The WaterFix goes on to further propose water system upgrades to address these would be disastrous effects.

Climate Change map_PPIC
Image Source: PPIC

The Public Policy Institute of California put out an additional report discussing California’s future in relation to climate change. While also discussing the risk of flooding, the reports adds climate change effects are likely to include more frequent droughts and higher temperatures causing more rain rather than snow.

Snowpack is a key component to California’s water supply system.  While rains may fill reservoir, rivers, and streams, these supplies are often diminished during warmer months.  Just as spring months begin to increase water usage, snowpack begins to melt refilling much of the reservoirs’ supply.  Without snowpack, the state’s water system will require significant changes. Additionally, if rain fall significantly increases, these additional flows will further increase flood risk.

As California begins to see a changing climate, adaptations and infrastructure upgrades will be needed.  The Delta should be a priority for many of these improves in order to protect residents, businesses and the state’s main water supply hub.