Indicators by Water Sustainability Category

Adaptive and Sustainable Management

  • Supports adaptation and resilience to climate change. The key to effective management is changing strategies and actions in response to new information and changing conditions.
  • Collaboration between scientists and policy makers to understand data and communication needs. Acting together, scientists and policy amkers are more likely to develop decisions that reflect the best information AND the desires and needs of society.
  • Communication of uncertainty, which can come from natural variation, measurement error, and incomplete knowledge of how systems function. It is important for scientists and analysts to communicate this uncertainty so that it becomes useful information in management decision-making and policy formulation.
  • The completion of restoration recommendations and key actions during the implementation phase of the process.
  • Data sharing and distribution. When systems are created to facilitate data distribution, they are more likely to be understood and management is more likely to be based upon these data.
  • Investment in agricultural improvement for water management and quality in Delta region.
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land or water management, industrial/commercial activities, energy production, or transportation
  • The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) uses a satellite-based method to estimate fluctuations in groundwater in the Earth’s surface. By subtracting the water subcomponents soil moisture, snow-water-equivalent, and surface reservoir storage, the residual GRACE signal can be interpreted to represent basin-wide groundwater changes.
  • Drought severity measures the average length of droughts times the dryness of the droughts from 1901 to 2008. The indicator was used by the World Resources Institute in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • Flood occurrence is the number of floods recorded from 1985 to 2011. The indicator was used by the World Resources Institute in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • Land Subsidence can be the result of depletion of aquifers. Both the absolute amount and rate of subsidence are used.
  • Frequency of levee breaks in the region. The frequency of levee weakening and breaking is informative about the power in the channel in particular locations.
  • Levee system integrity index (stability, risk prevention, maintenance). This combination of indicators can help prioritize particular stretches of levee for action.
  • Participation rates in local stewardship by the local stakeholders such as municipalities, indigenous people, irrigation districts, community organizations, watershed associations, conservation groups, and stewardship groups.
  • Process/data needs of local jurisdictions and geographies. Participation of local government entities in measuring conditions and performance may contribute to better decision-making.
  • Standardized methods for data collection and reporting and minimize collection biases. This approach is more likely to facilitate data and knowledge sharing, which is critical to manage complex human activities in response to similarly-complex natural systems.
  • Proportion of streams monitored periodically for streamflow, temperature, fisheries, stability. High rates of monitoring by public agency, or private organization programs suggest a high level of care and support for stewardship.
  • Level of support or opposition for environmental measures, such as statewide bonds and local environmental regulation (% of population).
  • Flow chart of process from data need, collection, analysis, decision-making, implementation, and results.

Adaptive and Sustainable Management, Water Supply Reliability

  • Baseline water stress measures total annual water withdrawals (municipal, industrial, and agricultural) expressed as a percent of the total annual available flow. Higher values indicate more competition among users. This indicator was used by the World Resources Institute in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • Energy required per unit of clean drinking water delivered.
  • Groundwater stress measures the ratio of groundwater withdrawal relative to its recharge rate over a given aquifer. Values above one indicate where unsustainable groundwater consumption could affect groundwater availability and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. The indicator was used by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • The water footprint is the sum of the water used directly or indirectly to produce goods and services consumed by humanity. Agricultural production accounts for most of global water use, but drinking, manufacturing, cooking, recreation, washing, cleaning, landscaping, cooling, and processing all contribute to water use.
  • Water Risk refers to the risk to water supplies from changes in climate and water withdrawals. The World Resources Institute used this indicator in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • Distance traveled for units of drinking and irrigation water. The long-distance movement of water is one of the most energy-intensive activities in California and may cause social, economic, and environmental harm in the source areas.

Adaptive and Sustainable Management, Ecosystem Health

  • The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the amount of biological productive land and sea area are required to meet the consumption and waste production patterns of a population or human process.
  • Inter-annual variability measures the variation in water supply between years. This indicator was used by the World Resources Institute in the Aqueduct 2.0 project.
  • The Plant Growth Index (PGI) is a measure of long-term changes in plant community condition, based on satellite measurement of the peak annual Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. You can click on "Map Layers" items to the right of the map view to display them in the map. It is possible to turn on more than one map at a time. See more detail below the map view.

Adaptive and Sustainable Management, Social Benefits and Equity

  • Equitable decision-making process for water management, diversity of participating organizations. A key component to equity and environmental justice is equitable access by all parties to decision-making.
  • The maximum flood that can be experienced without exceeding some amount (e.g., $10 million) in damages. Resilience will increase with improved flows access to floodplains and removal of infrastructure from floodplains.
  • Building standard and cost of maintaining levees/assessed value of the land use they protect. This ratio of benefit to cost helps us understand levees are the most important in a system.
  • Public awareness and perceptions of the role water plays in their lives and in the environment can affect how people vote to support candidates, taxes/assessments, and bond issues. It is both important to keep the public informed to support democracy and to track their knowledge and perceptions in order to develop policies and management actions.

Adaptive and Sustainable Management, Ecosystem Health, Water Supply Reliability

  • Water stress index is typically defined as the relationship between total water use and water availability. The closer water use is to water supply, the more likely stress will occur in natural and human systems. This indicator has been used by the United Nations and others.

Ecosystem Health

  • Relative abundance trend of key indicator species at different life stages (i.e. Delta smelt, Longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass, Chinook salmon, all salmonid populations).
  • Relative abundance trend of key non-native species, for example Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), and harmful invasive species such as Microcystis aeruginosa and other harmful algal blooms (HAB).
  • Aquatic fragmentation in a watershed or hydrologic region. When streams are crossed by roads or dams, the portions above and below the potential barrier are separated from each other in a process called fragmentation. This can interfere with physical processes and movement of aquatic organisms.
  • Artificial alteration of channel sides and/or bottom. Artificially armoring banks, lining channels with concrete, and fixing channels in place can all affect both aquatic and riparian/floodplain ecosystems.
  • Diversity of species and functional groups and richness (number) of species are useful information fro understanding ecosystem stability. Narrower measures of diversity, for example within one zone or ecosystem type or for one taxonomic group (e.g., birds) could provide more interpretable information than measuring the entire diversity of an area. Rocky intertidal areas are probably the most feasible place to collect data for this indicator, though this system type is also subject to dramatic natural and artificial disturbances.
  • Early life stages of fish species are more sensitive to disturbance than adult forms. They are also critically important to maintaining and increasing fish populations. These early stages may live in habitat types different from the adult forms and are thus subject to different natural and artificial pressures. Abundance of various early stages of individual species provides important information about those species, Diversity of early forms in a particular habitat type or location may point to the important nursery role of that habitat.
  • Populations of annual breeding success of many seabirds fluctuates annually in response to prey availability and quality. Hence, seabirds are frequently used as indicators of food web changes in marine ecosystems. Cassin's auklet is a small diving seabird that feeds primarily on krill, mysids, and some larval fish. There is an existing historical record for this species, including average number of offspring per year from each breeding pair. The large-scale dispersal of this bird species means that range-wide and regional assessment of trend and condition can be made. Pigeon guillemots are found along rocky shores and in inshore waters. They dive and feed on sculpins, sand lance, and smelt. While nesting, pigeon guillemots are sensitive to local disturbance. Prey availability and nest disturbance may be reflected in breeding success for many seabirds (fledging rate). Focal species: Cassin's auklet, pigeon guillemot, Brandt's cormorant, pelagic cormorant, and common murre
  • In marine and estuarine ecosystems, many invertebrates play key roles as herbivores, detritivores, and predators and are often termed "strong ecological interactors". Abundance of individual species can provide information about the ability of the ecosystem to capture and cycle nutrients and primary production to other trophic levels. Focal species for rocky systems: purple sea urchin, red sea urchin, red abalone, black abalone, giant/owl limpet, and various sea stars. Focal species for soft-bottom systems: Dungeness crab, sand crabs, razor clams, and sea stars.
  • Harbor seals are an important apex predator, feeding on a diverse range of fish and invertebrates in nearshore waters including herrings, sardines, hake, flounder, sole, octopus, squid and crabs. Harbor seals spend about half of their time hauled out resting, sunning, reproduction, and interacting socially. Haul-outs can be in any coastal habitat and are locations suitable for assessing seal populations and role of local and regional disturbance in seal abundance.
  • Planktivorous fish (fish that eat plankton) abundance and size structure are indicative of the ability of the ecosystem to capture nutrients provided by the influx of plankton. These could b species that specialize in plankton, or juvenile stages of other species that eat plankton.

    Focus species: Blue rockfish

  • The presence and increased abundance of predators indicates well-being in other trophic levels. Within kelp ecosystems, piscivorous fish may also play key ecological roles in moderating food web structure through top-down control. Certain fish are targeted by recreational and commercial anglers and well-being of populations of these species will provide social and economic benefits to coastal communities. Abundance and population structure (size classes) are important metrics for this indicator. Focal species include: Various rockfish, lingcod, cabezon, bocaccio, leopard shark, and bat ray
  • Resident and migratory birds forage in soft-sediment and rocky-intertidal ecosystems on a wide range of fish and invertebrate species. Populations of these birds can vary with climatic and oceanographic conditions as well as availability of prey in intertidal systems. Diversity of species and abundance of species are both important metrics.

    Focal species: black oystercatchers, Brandt's cormorant, pelagic cormorant, pigeon guillemot, and common murre

  • As in many ecosystems, in soft-bottom habitats, predators may play an important role in structuring animal communities. The density and size structure of focal predator species can indicate health of other trophic levels. The benthic invertebrates referred to here are those with a strong association with the substrate and may be subject to fishing pressure. Focal species: Dungeness crab and sea star

Ecosystem Health, Social Benefits and Equity

  • Commercial fishing contributes to local communities' economies. Metrics or this activity includes number of individual vessels, number of trips, and total landings per fish species (weight per species and size class). Other important information includes economic and social activity indirectly triggered by fishing in coastal communities. Focal species: nearshore rockfish, Dungeness crab, California halibut, and red sea urchin
  • Recreational fishing contributes to local communities' economies. Metrics or this activity includes number of individual vessels, number of trips, number of clients, and total landings per fish species (weight per species and size class). Other important information includes economic and social activity indirectly triggered by fishing in coastal communities. Focal species: Rockfish, lingcod, and California halibut