We’re Collaborating with The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited in California
California’s rapidly growing population has put increased demand on the limited water supply, compounded further by the severe droughts in the state and the demands of historical water users. The temporal mismatch in supply and demand has caused many coastal streams to experience their water levels drop to critical levels or even dry up completely. Consequently, the insufficient stream flows severely threaten the lives of endangered species such as coho salmon and steelhead trout, as they rely on the river and streamflow for survival.
The climate crisis is predicted to worsen these conditions, and voluntary actions with scalable impacts are urgently needed. Unfortunately, there is currently no widely available tool to perform water availability analysis to support development of such projects. As such, the approval process often takes years, even for projects that align with existing policy requirements. In addition, practitioners and government regulators can have differing perspectives when evaluating the analyses in the permitting context, further extending the time taken for reviewing and preparing the analyses. The resulting back and forth in this process delays implementation and drives up costs — significantly impeding the development of voluntary projects that have the potential to immediately improve dry season flow conditions for critically endangered fish and wildlife.
These problems illustrate California’s need for a tool that enables efficient ways for practitioners and agency staff members to scope and develop streamflow enhancement projects that expand beyond the project-specific scale. With The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited, Foundry Spatial is creating an online tool that will provide water availability analysis information that is necessary for developing and permitting flow enhancement projects. Additionally, it will serve as an essential decision-support tool when evaluating water availability for projects designed to benefit instream flows for fish and wildlife, particularly federally endangered coho salmon and federally threatened steelhead trout. As a result, the tool will significantly improve the process of scaling the number of flow enhancement projects in the North Coast pilot area by implementing a scientifically robust set of data, assumptions, and tools for evaluating the proposed projects. Following successful delivery of this North Coast pilot project, we aim to subsequently extend this capability statewide.
To achieve these objectives, Foundry Spatial will implement the Foundry Spatial Water Framework that has a proven track record of success. Current implementations of the framework are revolutionizing the ability of all users to access, explore, and understand fundamental knowledge of water resources at a variety of scales.
The Nature Conservancy, guided by science, creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions for the world’s toughest challenges by conserving the land and waters on which all life depends. They also have experience in developing and implementing flow enhancement projects in California and played a key role in developing statewide datasets that will be used in the proposed tool.
Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. The non-profit has deep experience preparing water availability analyses in California, implementing flow enhancement projects, and obtaining appropriative water rights to support these projects.
Together, we expect the implementation of this tool to have several beneficial outcomes. It will tackle the underlying issues that sparked the need for this tool’s creation, but will also target ones that go beyond the initial objectives. It will improve the efficiency and transparency of water management processes for all users by providing the information needed for making decisions based on technical advice for a given situation. It will fill information gaps regarding water rights and supply and demand conditions that exist for all streams in the pilot area (with prospect for expansion for the entire state). By doing so, it will save users days or weeks of time for every analysis completed (valued at up to $10,000 per analysis by users). Based on metrics from previous deployments in Western Canada, we anticipate this project to generate approximately $8M in value every year. This value will accrue to regulators and practitioners who would otherwise traditionally generate this information through manual processes, but perhaps more substantially the benefits of this tool will extend onto the environment by speeding up the regulatory component of developing voluntary streamflow enhancement projects, and allowing sustainability focused assessments of water use to be completed on demand for any location within the project area.
Foundry Spatial is thrilled to showcase our expertise with our collaborators in California to address the state’s most pressing water-related issues, to help preserve the state’s most vital and stressed resource.