Success Story

Protection of Critical Water Resources Important for California Agriculture and Health

The California Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is the hub for California’s water supply. It conveys water from Northern to Southern California agriculture and urban communities while supporting important ecosystem services in the Delta. The expansion of invasive aquatic plants threatens ecosystems, impedes current ecosystem restoration efforts, and is economically, environmentally, and sociologically detrimental to the Delta. These invasive plants negatively impact the redistribution of water and disrupt the ecology of the San Francisco Bay/ Delta complex.

In response to these challenges, NASA Ames Research Center (NASA-ARC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) partnered with the State of California and local Delta governments to develop science-based, adaptive-management strategies for the California Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The group focuses on altered environmental conditions in the Delta resulting from climate and drought, and the proliferation of aquatic invasive weeds.

The team is working to provide a comprehensive understanding of land use, drought and climate impacts on weed growth and strategies for integrated management. The project provides aid to local Delta stakeholders in developing assessment methods to determine the type and magnitude of impact from invasive weeds and developing integrated management strategies. An early product developed by NASA-ARC is a Water Hyacinth Mapping Tool, currently in use by the California Department of Boating and Waterways (CA-DBW) to monitor these non-native, invasive plants and direct management efforts.

A significant science gap is understanding how important native and invasive plants respond to the altered environmental conditions of the Delta. NASAARC uses unique controlled environment facilities to define plant response. USDA-ARS conducts research in aquatic weeds control practices such as the introduction of biological weed control agents (pathogens and insects), and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of chemical sprays and physical removal.

University of California-Davis and the local governments focus on understanding how the weed communities provide habitat for mosquitoes, impact the Delta aquatic food web, and how land use in the Delta affects water quality. CA-DBW provides the project with operational testing of candidate control strategies, and is an initial adopter of decision support systems.

The project combines the science, operations, and economic implications related to various scenarios for integrated management of aquatic weeds in the Delta to help land and waterway managers make science-informed decisions regarding management and outcomes. Methods developed by the project can become routine land and water management tools. New high-resolution NASA sensor systems could provide standard data packages specifically designed for water system and ecosystems assessment and management. It is the hope of project personnel that these methods developed and demonstrated in the California Delta will provide a template for improved management of resources in complex river delta systems worldwide