As water supply becomes increasingly unreliable, state and local governments are forced to stretch their limited resources to meet various and competing needs. But water managers often only have the tools to consider urban, industrial, energy and agricultural uses. Ecosystem health is a crucial missing element.

Two female wild salmon are swimming past an observation window as they traverse a salmon ladder at Torrent River. Photo: Gail Shotlander / Getty Images .

Water diversions can decimate aquatic habitat by draining wetlands, hindering fish migration and increasing saltwater intrusion. Climate change intensifies the impacts with warming waters, ocean acidification, and extreme weather. Addressing these effects – and choosing sustainable policy options – means integrating ecosystem needs into water management.

To help water managers address ecosystem water needs, SEI has developed the Aquatic Habitat Assessment (AHA) platform, available to the public as a downloadable plugin within the Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) software. AHA allows users to model the effect of various management options on the availability of habitat and the viability of aquatic species. AHA connects stream hydraulics with the biological needs of aquatic species during various life stages to evaluate how changes in water management affect habitat suitability.

The fact sheet below further details how AHA can integrate hydroecological processes within a water operations model.

The water program of SEI US drives innovation in water management by developing, using, and transferring planning tools and participatory processes.