Sediment budgets, transport, and depositional trends in a large tidal delta

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Abstract

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest delta on the west coast of the United States. It is formed where the confluence of California’s two largest rivers (the Sacramento and San Joaquin) meet the ocean tides and has a significant physical gradient from fluvial to tidal. It is a semidiurnal system (two high and two low tides per day). Today, the Delta is one of the most manipulated in the United States. Once composed of many shallow, meandering and braided dendritic channels and dead-end sloughs and wetlands, it is now a network of leveed canals moving clear water around subsided islands. It historically has supported a biologically diverse tidal wetland complex, of which only 3% remains today (Whipple et al., 2012). It has also witnessed a collapse in the native fish populations. The Delta provides critical habitat for native species, however the hydrology and water quality are complicated by manipulations and diversions to satisfy multiple statewide objectives. Today water managers face co-equal goals of water supply to Californians and maintenance of ecosystem health and function. The Delta is a hub for both a multi-hundred-million dollar agricultural industry and a massive north-to-south water delivery system, supplying the primary source of freshwater to Central Valley farmers and drinking water for two-thirds of California’s population. Large pump facilities support the water demand and draw water from the Delta, further altering circulation patterns and redirecting the net flow toward the export facilities (Monsen et al., 2007). Fluvial sedimentation, along with organic accumulation, creates and sustains the Delta landscape. Hydraulic mining for gold in the watershed during the late 1800s delivered an especially large sediment pulse to the Delta. More recently, from 1955 to the present, a significant sediment decline has been observed that is thought to have been caused mostly by the construction of water storage reservoirs that trap the upstream sediment supply (Wright and Schoellhamer, 2004). Today, one concern is whether the volume of sediment supplied from the upper watershed is sufficient to support ecological function and sustain the Delta landscape and ecosystem in the face of climate change, sea level rise, and proposed restoration associated with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com). Ecosystem health is a management focus and 150,000 acres of restoration is currently proposed, therefore it is of increasingly important to understand the quantity of sediment available for marsh and wetland restoration throughout the Bay Delta Estuary. It is also important to understand the pathways for sediment transport and the sediment budget into each of three Delta regions (figure 1) to guide restoration planning, modeling, and management.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Sediment budgets, transport, and depositional trends in a large tidal delta
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher ACWI Subcommittee on Sedimentation
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the Joint Federal Interagency Conference
First page 893
Last page 904
Conference Title Federal Interagency Sedimentation Conference, 10th
Conference Location Reno, Nevada
Conference Date April 2015
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta