Gauging the Impact of Sea Level Rise on Wetlands

Hayward, California

Featured image for the project, Gauging the Impact of Sea Level Rise on Wetlands

Photo Courtesy of the City of Hayward, CA.


Hayward, California is a diverse, coastal community. It has wetlands and its industrial base situated along its coastline. The top natural resource issue Hayward faces is water supply – while the city has low per capita water consumption rates, it is understood that California will likely experience longer, more intense periods of drought as the climate changes. Hayward is a customer of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and receives its water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the Tuolumne River, which relies on the annual Sierra snowpack as its source. As the snowpack decreases and Hayward’s population increases, water scarcity may be increasingly problematic. Currently, the city’s Utilities & Environmental Services department is working on a recycled water project (more information here) to provide treated, non-potable water to select industrial and commercial customers, to begin to address this issue.


Though Hayward has extensive wetlands compared to neighboring municipalities, these delicate ecosystems will collapse as they are inundated with bay water. Several studies analyzing the impact of sea level rise on the Hayward shoreline have been completed (the Adapting to Rising Tides Hayward Shoreline Study and a forthcoming Climate Hazard Assessment). These studies provide valuable information about inundation at different heights of sea level rise, but don’t address related hazards – for example, subsidence and changes in the water table along the shoreline, where many industrial businesses and the city’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) reside. Anecdotally, the WPCF has already experienced equipment problems due to subsidence and uplift.


Hayward would like to know the impact sea level rise (SLR) will have on wetlands, adjacent industries, city facilities and a former coastal landfill.

About the Community

Community Leads

Laurel James is a Management Analyst in the City Manager’s Office for the City of Hayward. In her role, she is responsible for the City’s employee engagement initiatives, emergency preparedness and resilience projects including the Hayward Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, and the department’s budget. Laurel holds a master’s degree in public policy from Mills College, and has worked for the City of Hayward since 2015.


John Stefanski is a Management Analyst in the City Manager’s Office for the City of Hayward. He is responsible for overseeing the City’s Community and Media Relations Division and Redevelopment Successor Agency. John is also the project coordinator for Highspeed Hayward, a $5.5M high speed fiber infrastructure expansion project. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, John holds a BA in Public Administration from Miami University and an MPA from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.


Scientific Lead

Dr. Patty Oikawa is Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Cal State University – East Bay in Hayward, CA. Her expertise is in ecosystem ecology, greenhouse gases, and biogeochemical cycling in coastal wetlands. She is in the process of trying to identify a local tidal wetland site to set up measurements of carbon dioxide and methane emissions as well as soil accretion to help understand how these systems can keep up with sea level rise. She has a PhD in Biology from the University of Virginia and a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara.