FLOWS SYMPOSIUM, PART 2: What Do We Mean by “Natural Functional Delta Inflow” in a Regulated and Modified System?; Delta Inflows of the Past: Lessons for Connecting Landscape Elements

South Fork, American River, photo by DWR

In January of 2013, a symposium hosted by Delta Science Program and the UC Davis Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture (CABA) titled, What is a Natural Hydrograph in Regulated Rivers? The Science of Natural Flows to the Delta, explored how the hydrologic regime of Delta inflows are impacted by land-use changes, diversions from the watershed, and climate change.

In this installment, Chris Enright digs into natural functional flows and their geomorphical context, and Robin Grossinger discusses what the past can tell us about connecting various landscape elements across the Delta.

CHRIS ENRIGHT: What Do We Mean by “Natural Functional Delta Inflow” in a Regulated and Modified System?

The issue here for the day is really what do we mean by natural functional flows,” began Chris Enright, Senior Water Resources Engineer for the Delta Science Program (now retired).  “What’s a natural hydrograph in regulated rivers, and the science of natural functional inflows to the Delta?  So right off the bat, we have a contradiction; natural and functional.  Think about it; those two terms in many ways don’t even belong together, and in some sense, that’s the purpose of this workshop is to crack that open and try to make some sense of it.  Prior to the Gold Rush, natural and functional would have been redundant, because what was functional was natural, so we didn’t need to distinguish, but the Central Valley watershed is enormously modified and regulated.”

Click here to continue reading this presentation.

ROBIN GROSSINGER: Delta Inflows of the Past: Lessons for Connecting Landscape Elements – Hydrograph Variability and Functions from the Historical Landscape

Robin Grossinger, Senior Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, began by saying he felt well-set up by the first two presentations.  “I think they both addressed straight on the paradox we find ourselves in, which is that we know that we can’t restore the past, we can’t recreate the historical conditions that these rivers experienced, and yet we know equally that we need to reestablish more natural – as nature intended – hydrology and morphology, and so we find ourselves in this impossible situation,” he said.  “But they both presented creative strategies, taking clues from the past in terms of hydrology, in terms of morphology, and creative ways those can be brought into our systems today.  And I think implicitly, I agree with the idea there’s a lot of room for improvement, even within the dramatic constraints that we face.  That’s what I think is exciting.”

Click here to continue reading this presentation.

Coming up tomorrow: Coverage of the flows conference continues with the presentation by Dr. Bruce Herbold, “Hydrographs and Ecological Functions in the Present-day Landscape of the Sacramento River”, and Dr. Sarah Yarnell with the presentation, “Ecological Response to the Unregulated Spring Flow Regime in the Sierra Nevada”.


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