Coastal News

New Tool Informs Flooding and Sea Level Rise Solutions for San Francisco Bay Area

With the potential for flooding during present-day winter storms and sea level rise continually inching up on San Francisco Bay Area communities, a team of scientists and engineers have created a new computer model that can inform key decision-making and guide flood prevention efforts both now and in the future. The model can be accessed free-of-charge on the San Francisco Bay-Delta Community website.

The computer model synthesizes the complex dynamics that make up the San Francisco Bay-Delta’s environment, including the hydrology, sediment transport, water quality and the many ecosystems that span the region.

“Agencies can now work collaboratively to gather insights and assess the impact of flood events and understand how effective mitigation measures such as levees, salt pond restoration projects, and other proposed measures might affect different jurisdictions across the Bay and Delta,” said Hank Ackerman, Flood Control Program Manager with the Alameda County Public Works Agency.

The new Delft3D Flexible Mesh model simulates conditions across the San Francisco Bay-Delta system from Point Reyes up to the tidal limits near Sacramento. The high-resolution mesh can capture fine features and variations in the model that allow for detailed computations on hydrodynamics, sediment transport, water quality, and ecosystems.

“Agencies across the Bay Area can tap into this resource to forecast water levels for emergency response protocols to present-day storms as well as future sea level rise and storm scenarios,” said Patrick Barnard, USGS Research Geologist, whose team’s work on the Coastal Storm Modeling System and Advanced Quantitative Precipitation Information System informed the development of the model.

The one- and two-dimensional hydrodynamic model can be used to estimate tide, storm surge, and wave-driven water levels in the Bay, local tributaries, and Delta channels for hindcast and forecasting purposes. The three-dimensional hydrodynamic model can be used to simulate salinity and temperature in the Bay and Delta.

This new open-access platform is made possible through a partnership between the United States Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Alameda County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, with support from Deltares USA. To mark the release of this new tool, the USGS, Alameda County Flood Control District, and Deltares USA are hosting a collaborative webinar. This event will showcase research and practical experiences with the San Francisco Bay Community Model. For more information and to register, please visit


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