Researchers Look to Wetlands to Increase Delta Water Quality

UC Merced –

UC Merced Professor Peggy O’Day hopes to improve water quality in the California Delta by studying local wetlands.

O’Day is leading a new three-year study of Merced County wetlands that drain into the San Joaquin River and eventually the Delta.

“The Delta is sort of the heart and lungs of Northern California,” said O’Day, a geochemistry professor, founding faculty member and former chair of the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences in the School of Natural Sciences.

By looking at how to manage levels of salt, mercury and nutrients heading into the San Joaquin River, researchers are aiming to boost water quality and reduce impacts on fish and other aquatic life in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The Delta forms where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet in the Central Valley.

The project will examine wetlands — about 40 miles southwest of UC Merced’s campus — that drain into the San Joaquin River.

“There has not been a lot of work on tributaries to the San Joaquin River,” O’Day said. “It’s been really understudied with respect to other Delta tributaries.”

The San Joaquin River basin supplies about a third of the Delta’s incoming water. It’s known for being high in salt due to agriculture runoff and for having wetlands, which hold salt when they dry out.

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