Freshwater conservation options for a changing climate in California’s Sierra Nevada

TitleFreshwater conservation options for a changing climate in California’s Sierra Nevada
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsViers, J. H., & Rheinheimer D. E.
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Date Published03/2011
KeywordsCalifornia, climate warming, freshwater conservation, Sierra Nevada, water management
AbstractCatchments of California’s Sierra Nevada have been managed for hydropower, water supply, recreation and the environment, during which regional freshwater ecosystems have experienced extirpations of anadromous fishes, widespread loss in amphibian abundance and increases in non-native species. California’s Mediterranean-montane climate is expected to warm by 2–68C over the next century, reducing snowpack, causing earlier runoff and altering flows. Freshwater conservation efforts currently rely on a patchwork of legal and regulatory mechanisms, and have failed to achieve their full potential because of weak and uncoordinated implementation. No scheme adequately addresses freshwater conservation objectives such as representation and persistence, and all ignore anticipated impacts of climate change. We recommend that (1) existing legislation be fully implemented, with explicit anticipation of future conditions, (2) local institutions develop and implement a systematic freshwater conservation plan, focusing on resilience to climate warming, (3) policies be crafted to prioritise catchments to emphasise key regional objectives (e.g. conservation) and (4) regional planning agencies with regulatory authority be formed at the catchment level.