Water Management and Climate Extremes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin

2018 Fall Cyberseminar Series

Scott Steinschneider / Cornell University

Talk Description

California is a land beset by extremes. Multiyear droughts are common, arising from high-amplitude and persistent ridges off the Western U.S. coast. These droughts often end with extreme floods linked to atmospheric rivers—narrow plumes of tropical Pacific moisture that create orographic precipitation over the Sierra Nevada. These extreme events pose significant water management challenges in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, which encompasses most of the state and contains one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States, swelling populations drawn by a diverse and growing economy, and critical, at-risk ecosystems, including in the California Delta. After reviewing the history of the California water system, this talk delves into recent advances in understanding past and potential future variability and change in climate extremes across California, with a focus on what we can learn from climate models and paleoclimate proxies like tree-ring chronologies. Armed with this knowledge, we will then address emerging strategies to improve water management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, and the potential to increase system resiliency to extreme climate.

CUAHSI's 2018 Fall Cyberseminar Series: Major Challenges in Key River Basins Around the World

Hosted by Katherine Schlef, CUAHSI

Water management of major transboundary river basins is fascinating in its complexity and is also increasingly challenged by change in both hydro-climatology and human populations. For example, the climatology in large transboundary river basins may be influenced by monsoons, mesoscale convective systems, hurricanes, or orthographic rainfall. The hydrology can be similarly complex, ranging from high-elevation glacier- or snowmelt-fed catchments to completely urban landscapes to low-lying flatlands or arid plains with substantial groundwater interactions. Furthermore, human use of water for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and hydropower generation purposes alters the natural water cycle and can become contentious when water crosses geopolitical boundaries and as demand for water increases. In this seminar series, you will hear perspectives from a diverse set of emerging researchers regarding the challenges and possible solutions facing major transboundary river basins in the world, such as the Indus River Basin in Pakistan, the American and Sacramento River Basins in California, the Ohio River Basin in the United States Midwest, and the Nile River Basin in Ethiopia. You will gain an increased appreciation for the complexity of water management in such basins and will be inspired by the innovative and novel methods being used to solve the many challenges they face.