Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

National Academies news: Managing the Columbia River

01.04.2004


If Washington state issues additional permits for water to be diverted from the Columbia River for farm irrigation, it should do so only under the condition that withdrawals can be stopped if river flows become critically low for endangered and threatened salmon, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Research Council. Salmon are at increased risk during periods of low flows and high water temperatures, conditions that are most likely to occur during the summer months when demand for water by farmers is greatest, the report says.



"Whether or not to issue additional permits is a decision to be made by the public and policy-makers, but if the withdrawals are allowed, there should be enough flexibility to halt them if river conditions become too severe for the salmon," said Ernest Smerdon, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and retired vice provost and dean, College of Engineering and Mines, University of Arizona, Tucson.

The report was requested by the Washington State Department of Ecology, which asked for an evaluation of the effects of additional water withdrawals of approximately 250,000 acre-feet to 1.3 million acre-feet per year, roughly the volume sought in currently pending applications for additional water withdrawals. An acre-foot is the quantity of irrigation water that would cover an acre to a depth of one foot -- equal to 325,851 gallons.


Over the course of the 20th century, salmon runs on the Columbia River dwindled from around 16 million per year to only 1 million per year. Their numbers have rebounded slightly in recent years, mainly because of favorable conditions in the Pacific Ocean, to which young salmon migrate before returning upstream to spawn.

The committee reviewed many competing scientific hypotheses and models that attempt to explain the effects of various environmental conditions on Columbia River salmon. There is no scientific consensus on which environmental factors pose the greatest threat to salmon, the committee said, but scientific evidence does show that when extremely low flows or excessively high water temperatures occur, pronounced changes in salmon migratory behavior and lower survival rates can be expected. Several dams on the Columbia have slowed the river’s velocity and smoothed out much of its natural variability, although its water levels and velocity still fluctuate considerably on a daily, seasonal, and yearly basis, the committee said. It also emphasized that policy-makers must be willing to develop a sound, comprehensive water management plan despite the scientific uncertainties.

Because the Columbia River basin extends across seven states, many Indian reservations, and one Canadian province, the committee urged the jurisdictions involved to convene a forum for documenting and discussing the potential effects of proposed water diversions. Making decisions about diversions on a case-by-case basis without considering the basinwide cumulative effects will contribute to degraded conditions for salmon, the committee said.

Several water management approaches being considered by the state’s department of ecology were reviewed by the committee. It recommended against any conversion of current water rights to so-called uninterruptible status -- an approach in which a farmer gives up rights to a certain volume of water in exchange for a guaranteed minimum level of water every year -- because this method would decrease flexibility in times of low flows or high water temperatures. On the other hand, the committee found the department’s market-based proposals appealing because the trading of water rights could lessen the need for further water diversions. Regardless of the approaches it chooses, the department of ecology should adopt the principles of adaptive management, where decisions are made and adjusted based on continuous scientific experimentation and monitoring.


The study was sponsored by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Copies of MANAGING THE COLUMBIA RIVER: INSTREAM FLOWS, WATER WITHDRAWALS, AND SALMON SURVIVAL will be available later this spring from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information.

William Kearney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nas.edu/
http://www.nap.edu
http://NATIONAL-ACADEMIES.ORG

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>