Rittelmeyer, Pam (2020, May). Socio-cultural perceptions of flood risk and management of a levee system: Applying the Q methodology in the California Delta. Geoforum, 111, 11-23. (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.02.022) (Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0016718520300658)

Abstract: The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an agricultural, recreational, historical, and cultural center and the hub of the state’s water supply system. For decades the region has been ripe with political controversies stemming from conflicting interests over its natural resources which all depend on the protection of approximately 1800 km of earthen levees that surround over 60 islands, some of which are below sea level and two-thirds of which are privately owned. This study uses Q methodology to explore the discourses of the broad range of stakeholders, including farmers, land- and water-based recreation enthusiasts, water exporters, utilities, environmentalists, and government agencies, about flood risk and flood management in the Delta. The results of this study reveal five distinct views regarding the risk of submersion of one or more islands due to either overtopping during high waters or structural levee failures. The findings of this study also elucidate nuanced narratives on the viability of anticipatory climate change adaptation in the Delta. Proximity, sense of vulnerability, values, trust, and views of climate change are the underlying factors in these perspectives. The perspectives identified suggest that resolving decades of distrust among stakeholder groups will remain difficult; however, taking a cultural approach to understanding perspectives may provide an opportunity to open up the conversations to adaptation approaches, and thus fulfill the legal mandate to protect the Delta as an evolving place.

Pam Rittelmeyer <prittelm@ucsc.edu> is in the Department of Environmental Studies, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA (USA).