Projects and Research Programs

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California is in a serious drought. The 2013 calendar year was the driest on record for much of the state. In January 2014, the governor declared a drought emergency. The Center for Watershed Sciences is providing insights and scientific information for thoughtful discussion of the drought and improving water management.
California has some of the most intensely managed watersheds in the world. Local, state and federal policymakers face huge challenges in deciding how best to manage these resources. Scientists, researchers and students at the Center for Watershed Sciences are tackling watershed restoration and management problems and provide scientific expertise to make more informed (and presumably better) decisions.
Floodplains in the San Joaquin and Sacramento River watersheds provide many benefits to humans, wildlife and the environment. Interdisciplinary studies to better understand the economic, hydrologic and ecological functions of these floodplains assist in successful management.
The Center for Watershed Sciences supports a diverse team of research scientists, engineers, and economists to address the environmental, economic and water supply issues of California's vital Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Estuaries are typically heavily impacted environments, because of the large human populations that are drawn to the resources they have provided historically. These include fisheries, hunting, safe harbors, water access, and recreation. Resulting degradations to the environment can cause wholesale alteration of the ecosystem, including loss of the original benefits. The San Francisco Estuary is an example of a novel estuarine ecosystem, with only relicts of naturalistic habitat and function remaining.
International research is a vibrant part of the Center for Watershed Sciences. The Center’s expertise in California water issues has been especially helpful in regions with similar Mediterranean climate and water supply challenges.
Computer models utilizing large data sets provide new insights about how complex elements of water systems interact as well as a standardized and transparent means of comparing management alternatives.
Most of California's water and much of its hydropower originates with the rain and snow that fall in the Sierra Nevada. Center scientists are studying ways for people, plants and animals to better share the resources of this critical and sensitive region of California.
Spring-fed rivers and streams are increasingly important as spawning and rearing habitat for cold-water fish because the water volume and temperatures in these systems are more resilient to climate change than surface run-off watersheds.
The Water Economics research program hubs collaboration among resource economists and other research disciplines to provide insights on various water uses including agriculture, urban and the environment. Economic costs of drought, policy analysis of water management and their costs are among the span of research produced in the program.
River restoration is a young science, with much still to be learned about how water, land forms, plants and animals can be managed to produce sustainable environments for threatened species.