Sustaining Deltas: An Adaptive Water Management and Agricultural Diversification System

By Richard Fisher, Ryan Whipple, Cory Miyamoto and Kim Nguyen.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Deltas are pinnacles of life: they provide environmental wealth to support biodiversity, human population centers, and industrial and agricultural production. Land use, water diversion, flooding, subsidence, salt water intrusion, and ultimately levee failure threaten these complex ecosystems, and it is, therefore, important that dynamic approaches be taken to avoid disaster and sustain thriving Deltas. This report focuses on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but the lessons learned can be extended across the globe. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the primary water resource for California’s urban and agricultural development. Sherman Island sits on the western edge of the Delta and is a critical geographic feature in balancing the flux of saltwater in the Delta. However, Sherman Island is at risk of catastrophic failure. Flooding, saltwater intrusion, and ongoing subsidence are current threats that become further exacerbated by global climate change. Through collaboration with industry representatives, inhabitants, academics, and local government officials, the environmental, social, and economic impacts of these issues were holistically addressed. The synthesis of stakeholder input with natural and engineered environments led to the design of an Adaptive Water Management and Agricultural Diversification System (AWMADS) composed of a levee enclosed flood storage and wetland habitat area that can dynamically support hydroponics (soil-less agriculture), aquaculture (concentrated production of aquatic species), and many other optional components over the system’s life. Engineering, socio-economic, and environmental impact analyses, and exploration of mitigation strategies demonstrate the theoretical success of the system to protect against flooding, sequester carbon, restore habitats, and reinvigorate the local economy.

Keywords: Deltas, Floods, Water Resource Management, Aquaculture, Agriculture, Climate Change, Sustainability, Environmental Impacts, Engineering Systems, Adaptive Design

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.155-176. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 8.579MB).

Richard Fisher

Graduate and Engineer In Traning, University of California at Berkeley, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

Richard Fisher earned a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a minor in Sustainable Design from University of California at Berkeley and holds an EIT certificate and International Baccalaureate Diploma. He is currently working towards a professional certification in Green Chemistry from UC Berkeley Extension while working as a Staff Engineer for Geosyntec Consultants. Other experience includes work as a Project Engineer for Webcor Construction, as an Archeological Research Assistant at UC Berkeley as well as a researcher and writer for Green Answers, an environmental sustainability focused website. He has worked 8 years in the construction industry as a carpenter and as the owner and chief designer of R&E Designs, a design and project management company. Previous research on Water Management in Deltas won first place among UC Berkeley Capstone Engineering Projects and has been published in California Engineer. Richard was awarded the UC Berkeley Bob Tessier Award (2010), Pacific–10 All Academic Team Honors as a Division–1 Football Player and Scholar (2010) and was recognized as an Outstanding Scholar, Citizen and Athlete by the National Football Foundation (2006).

Ryan Whipple

Graduate, University of California at Berkeley, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, San Diego, California, USA

Ryan Whipple is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Born and raised in San Diego, California, he pursued his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Berkeley for the opportunity to work with world-class faculty and partake in a broad array of engineering projects. While a student at UC Berkeley, Ryan was involved in research and development projects such as the construction of a solar car, the modeling of groundwater contaminant flow, and the design and feasibility study of a water management and agricultural diversification system for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. While working as an educator of Physics and Earth Sciences for minority youth in the South Bay Region of San Diego, CA, Ryan is continuing research on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. His research is conducted with the support of UC faculty and members of the Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure Networks Team (RESIN), which is focused on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Region and consists of senior researchers from business, organizational behavior, energy resource development, engineering, public policy, and law.

Cory Miyamoto

Master Student, University of California at Berkeley, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

Cory Miyamoto studied Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in spring 2010. He will be returning to the Berkeley campus to pursue a Master’s Degree in Geotechnical Engineering in the fall of 2011. He has worked as a laboratory assistant and development technician at the University of California Pavement Research Center, a bituminous materials laboratory located at the Richmond Field Station. These positions allowed him the opportunity to participate in fieldwork across California and in Arizona as well. He has also held internships with Bestor Engineers and Richard Rhodes Architects, both in the Monterey Bay Area. While an undergraduate at Cal, he was a member of the University of California Marching Band and Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He looks forward to developing his professional career after completing his graduate studies in spring of 2012.

Kim Nguyen

Graduate, University of California at Berkeley, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Fremont, California, USA