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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Potential Effects of Organic Carbon Production on Ecosystems and Drinking Water Quality

  • Author(s): Brown, Larry R.
  • et al.

Restoration of tidal wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) is an important component of the Ecosystem Restoration Program of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program (CALFED). CALFED is a collaborative effort among state and federal agencies to restore the ecological health and improve water management of the Delta and San Francisco Bay (Bay). Tidal wetland restoration is intended to provide valuable habitat for organisms and to improve ecosystem productivity through export of various forms of organic carbon, including both algae and plant detritus. However, the Delta also provides all or part of the drinking water for over 22 million Californians. In this context, increasing sources of organic carbon may be a problem because of the potential increase in the production of trihalomethanes and other disinfection by-products created during the process of water disinfection. This paper reviews the existing information about the roles of organic carbon in ecosystem function and drinking water quality in the Bay-Delta system, evaluates the potential for interaction, and considers major uncertainties and potential actions to reduce uncertainty. In the last 10 years, substantial progress has been made on the role of various forms of organic carbon in both ecosystem function and drinking water quality; however, interactions between the two have not been directly addressed. Several ongoing studies are beginning to address these interactions, and the results from these studies should reduce uncertainty and provide focus for further research.

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