Climate change resilience in a changing environment
By Michelle Hallack, PhD, Water Resources Engineer
The recent multi-year drought (2011-2016) impacted groundwater availability and water supply. In 2015 alone up to 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in losses was reported. As a result, California is actively seeking alternative water resources and aggressively promoting water conservation. Numerous agencies, organizations and companies have implemented sustainable approaches including storm water capturing and use in urban areas as an alternative. In addition, coping with drought under climate change conditions is challenging and groundwater is becoming the most prevailing reserve. While, climate change is an urgent global issue, regional and local impacts threaten the success and longevity of planning and management actions, that trigger a broad range of effects to water resources resulting in increasing runoff, pollutant loads, more frequent multi-year/seasonal droughts and pressure on existing systems in the San Diego Region.
San Diego’s efforts have been adopted as The San Diego Water Board adopted Tentative Resolution No. R9-2018-0051, Addressing Threats to Beneficial Uses from Climate Change, where the main beneficial uses focus on safe water to drink, eat, swim and healthy ecosystem. Those beneficial uses are driven by two main recommended climate change goals with emphasis in effective water conservation approaches: 1) grow local water supply; 2) capture storm water without damaging downstream ecosystems.
The San Diego region is located in a semiarid zone characterized by a highly variable Mediterranean climate. According to the latest California’s Climate Change Assessment, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The San Diego Region is expected to increase its average temperature in a range of 5⁰F to 10⁰F by the end of the 21st century along with wildfire risk as climate warms coupled with longer dry periods. While its interannual precipitation is projected to continue highly variable with wetter winters characterized by scarcer wet days but more intense precipitation leading to more frequent and severe drought periods.
Accordingly, management tools accounting for multiple environmental stressors such as climate change and extreme events (droughts and floods) are needed to assess future hydrological resources in this region. Consequently, a critical challenge to developed urban cities is planning and designing for resilience to the impact of climate change and extreme events with regards to sustainable management of water resources.
Adaptation strategies in water resources planning allow water managers to prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change. Watershed plans need to address suitable current and future sustainability topics. It is our responsibility to act to protect and restore uses of water for our communities and ecosystems in a cost-effective manner.
Alta Environmental experts help our clients with climate change and water resources management and planning across the west coast. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (800) 777-0605. Michelle Hallack, PhD can be reached at Michelle.Hallack@altaenviron.com.
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