In 2017, a perfect storm hit the City of San Jose in Santa Clara County. Coyote Creek, which winds through the heart of the city, overtopped its banks, flooding businesses and hundreds of homes up to depths of six feet. Thousands of people were evacuated and property damages exceeded $70 million. “If I’ve learned anything in my 25 years here, it’s that you have to give creeks room to move, which also creates more resilience to climate change,” says Valley Water district planning engineer Afshin Rouhani, explaining that this slows the water, decreasing flooding and bank erosion. As winter rains intensify with climate change, flooding will worsen in the county. In the hills edging the Santa Clara Valley, wildfire is also a threat. On the valley floor, where most of the people live, major threats in addition to riverine flooding are blistering hot summer days and shoreline flooding as San Francisco Bay rises. The Coyote Creek system—1,500 miles of waterways that drain a 350-square-mile watershed—connects half a dozen elements that are key to climate adaptation, from reservoirs to creek confluences to shoreline levees.
Robin Meadows is an independent science journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s a water reporter at Maven's Notebook, a California water news site, and contributor to Chemical & Engineering News, Ka Pili Kai, KneeDeep Times, and Scientific American. Robin is also a Pulitzer Center grantee, an Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources fellow, a contributor to The Craft of Science Writing, a mentor with The Open Notebook, and a UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program graduate. Find her on Tumblr and Twitter.