Roughly a decade ago the State of California enacted the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act, committing itself to providing “a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta’s ecosystem while protecting the Delta’s unique and evolving character.” At the same time, the Delta Stewardship Council was established to serve as “an independent voice for science and policy in the Delta.” To support the Council, a Delta Science Program was charged with “providing the best possible scientific information to inform water and environmental management decisions for the Delta.” Three years later a court-ordered Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program engaged a stakeholder process “to address emerging science and information needs regarding water management and species of concern.”
That clear mandate to inform resource management using the best available science should in concept allow federal, state, and local agencies to confront the wicked environmental challenges before them — balancing water supply, water quality, ecosystem protection, species conservation, and other concerns in a dynamic system. But, in reality, the myriad agencies that share responsibility for the Delta’s strained resources have conflicting mandates and are responsive to different policymakers and constituencies. That fact coupled with the absence of a shared vision for the Delta and ongoing scientific uncertainties has contributed a situation where intensified focus and increased expenditures on science and management actions over the past quarter century have yielded unsatisfactory results by almost any measure. Reliable and useful knowledge of the needs of the Delta’s desired species remains limited. The Delta Reform Act’s goals remain elusive.
Generating science in support of resource management in the Delta is not a simple exercise in data collection, analysis, and reporting findings. Rather the necessary science must address management hypotheses, inform analyses of the effects of alternative management actions on available water and imperiled species, quantify benefits-and-costs to inform risk assessments, and target the uncertainties that vex decision-makers. The Center for California Water Resources Management and Policy is committed to collaborating with resource managers in the Delta and policymakers in Sacramento and Washington DC, to identify, generate, and interpret the scientific information that can directly and immediately contribute to a new and impactful resource management agenda in the Delta.
The Center promotes and engages in investigations and directed studies with the purpose of delivering findings with direct application in conservation planning for the Delta’s imperiled species, the ecological communities to which they contribute, and the ecosystems that sustain them. Center-affiliated experts contribute to a new, more-effective collaborative science endeavor that is hungry for reliable and relevant scientific information fed into transparent structured decision-making. Research funded by the Center offers salient information into the Delta conversation, engaging applied research using publicly available data on the Delta’s fishes to make population projections, to explore fish-habitat relationships, and to guide the state and federal resource agencies toward long-promised adaptive management. Prior published analyses from the Center have described the role of effects analysis in structured decision making, the essential analytical steps in adaptive management, the necessary elements in independent scientific review, and the means of differentiating the best available scientific information from information of lesser value.