California officials study drought benefits of salinity barrier

On Monday, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a draft Environmental Impacts Report, which looked into the and potential negative impacts of repeated use of a temporary drought salinity barrier in the delta.This drought barrier is in the West False River. It is a wall of earth that helps to keep salt water from the Bay Area from infiltrating into the freshwater delta system during times of severe drought. During non-drought conditions, runoff from rainfall and snowmelt combined with regular freshwater releases from major reservoirs keep that saltwater well away from the delta. But as water supplies dwindle, water releases must be limited to ensure that other water needs can be met.” So what this allows us to do is keep the Delta fresh for the beneficial uses of the interior Delta with the release of less fresh water, Jacob MrQuirk, principle engineer for DWR says. If the delta were to become contaminated with saltwater, millions would lose access to fresh drinking water, including farmers, who rely on the delta for irrigation.The study released on Monday looked specifically at the impact of using this temporary drought barrier two additional times within the next 10 years. It found that overall, the barrier is successful at blocking saltwater, but there were noted impacts on some native animal species, including the delta smelt.McQuirk said that DWR is working to mitigate those impacts.A drought salinity barrier is one tool that DWR may need to use more as climate change threatens the West with longer periods of drought.” “We are learning that climate change is making things more challenging for us. That means more extremes, more dry weather, and so really, exactly what mother nature has in store, we just don’t know,” McQuirk said.

On Monday, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a draft Environmental Impacts Report, which looked into the and potential negative impacts of repeated use of a temporary drought salinity barrier in the delta.

This drought barrier is in the West False River. It is a wall of earth that helps to keep salt water from the Bay Area from infiltrating into the freshwater delta system during times of severe drought.

During non-drought conditions, runoff from rainfall and snowmelt combined with regular freshwater releases from major reservoirs keep that saltwater well away from the delta. But as water supplies dwindle, water releases must be limited to ensure that other water needs can be met.

“So what is this [drought barrier] allows us to do is keep the Delta fresh for the beneficial uses of the interior Delta with the release of less fresh water,” says Jacob MrQuirk, principle engineer for DWR.

If the delta were to become contaminated with saltwater, millions would lose access to fresh drinking water, including farmers, who rely on the delta for irrigation.

The study released on Monday looked specifically at the impact of using this temporary protection barrier two additional times within the next 10 years.

It found that overall, the barrier is successful at blocking saltwater, but there were noted impacts on some native animal species, including the delta smelt.

McQuirk said that DWR is working to mitigate those impacts.

A drought salinity barrier is one tool that DWR may need to use more as climate change threatens the West with longer periods of drought.

“We are learning that climate change is making things more challenging for us. That means more extremes, more dry weather, and so really, exactly what mother nature has in store, we just don’t know,” McQuirk said.

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