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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Advances in Understanding Flow Dynamics and Transport of Water-Quality Constituents in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta

  • Author(s): Schoellhamer, David H.;
  • Wright, Scott A.;
  • Monismith, Stephen G.;
  • Bergamaschi, Brian A.
  • et al.

This paper, part of the collection of research comprising the State of Bay–Delta Science 2016, describes advances during the past decade in understanding flow dynamics and how water-quality constituents move within California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Water-quality constituents include salinity, heat, oxygen, nutrients, contaminants, organic particles, and inorganic particles. These constituents are affected by water diversions and other human manipulations of flow, and they greatly affect the quantity and quality of benthic, pelagic, and intertidal habitat in the Delta. The Pacific Ocean, the Central Valley watershed, human intervention, the atmosphere, and internal biogeochemical processes are all drivers of flow and transport in the Delta. These drivers provide a conceptual framework for presenting recent findings. The tremendous expansion of acoustic and optical instruments deployed in the Delta over the past decade has greatly improved our understanding of how tidal variability affects flow and transport. Sediment is increasingly viewed as a diminishing resource needed to sustain pelagic habitat and tidal marsh, especially as sea level rises. Connections among the watershed, Delta, and San Francisco Bay that have been quantified recently highlight that a landscape view of this system is needed, rather than consideration of each region in isolation. We discuss interactions of multiple drivers and information gaps.

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