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Interagency Ecological Program Offers ‘Drought Room’ at annual workshop

March 2014

During its 2014 Annual Workshop in late February, the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP) in conjunction with the Delta Science Program, included a last-minute add-on to its regularly scheduled program, an interactive “drought room”.

“We challenged people to write on a series of posters their ideas on what the potential effects of the drought would be on various fishes, etc. and how they would approach studying this to see if those effects are really happening,” said IEP Lead Scientist Anke Mueller-Solger.

Here’s a look at a couple of the drought-room questions and responses:

How Will Drought Conditions Affect Fishes that Spawn in the Delta?

Hypothesis: Extremely low outflow will cause record low abundance of delta smelt

How would you test or answer them? Continue long-term monitoring of delta smelt and environmental conditions and use data to improve life-cycle models. Develop more comprehensive long-term adaptive management program.

Why is this important? Delta smelt are close to going extinct. Data collected this year under extreme environmental conditions will help improve models that can be used to improve management of delta smelt.

How will drought conditions affect water quality in the Estuary?

Hypothesis: Low flow and long residence times will allow some contaminants to accumulate. This results in acute toxicity to sensitive organisms such as delta smelt.

How would you test or answer them? Targeted contaminants monitoring and toxicity testing with relevant organisms.

Why is this important? Contaminants are ecological stressors. Drought conditions may exacerbate their effects.

So, what’s next? The Delta Science Program will use the “drought room” ideas to determine how to incorporate them into the Interim Science Action Agenda and coordinate joint initiatives on rapid response research, as described in the Delta Science Plan.

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)