Climate Change and Wetland Ecology

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November 2, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.

Guest: Cynthia Koehler

Cynthia Koehler (San Francisco, CA), Senior Consulting Attorney, Environmental Defense Fund. "Wetlands, Climate Change and Ecology."

Ms. Koehler is an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The group is interested in water policy worldwide and also in California. The organization runs the Center for Rivers and Deltas, focusing on coastal Mississippi and also on California's Sacramento River Delta.

(Note: The Sacramento Delta is a large, very fertile agricultural floodplain crisscrossed by channels and levees between Sacramento and San Francisco Bay. The delta is unusual in that it is located inland rather than at the coast. The river empties into San Francisco Bay but nearby mountain ranges cause the river to deposit its sediment inland, before it runs through the final channel.)

California is in the middle of an intense legislative battle and philosophical argument on whether to allow water runoff to flow naturally, in order to preserve endangered fish species in San Francisco Bay, or to continue to allow the water to be diverted for drinking water and to irrigate crops that provide food for human populations.

The issue with salmon is to maintain stream runoff so the salmon can reproduce. Ms. Koehler noted that salmon production is down 90% (it should be noted that the spawning season is fairly brief and early, and that water may be diverted after that without harming the salmon).

Sharon pointed out that irrigation contributes to ground water, which is being rapidly depleted in California. Ms. Koehler commented that while irrigation and water channeling are important, a free-flowing stream is most beneficial for every aspect of the environment, including ground water recharging. The biggest problem for ground water maintenance in California, according to Ms. Koehler, is pumping for crop irrigation, which depletes aquifers far more than rivers can re-supply, and can create a salt buildup in the agricultural soils.


Categories: Ecology and the environment; water and sanitation; politics, health and the environment; 2009