Modeling and Informatics

digital forest with code overlaid

Computer models provide a means for scientists and policy makers to improve understanding of the interaction of complex water systems, to forecast the effects of such phenomena as climate change and population growth, to test the effects of proposed changes in operations and policy, and to compare management alternatives. The MACHRO (Modeling and Analysis of California Hydrological Resources and Operations) Project develops and applies modeling tools to assist agencies, NGOs, consultants, and academic researchers to better understand and develop solutions to California's water and environmental problems.

Modeling and Analysis of California's Hydrologic Resources and Operations (MACHRO)

Problem - "At night, all cats are grey" Effective water management rests on data and quantitative analysis for transparency in accounting and evaluation. Accounting for water availability, demands, infrastructure capacities, and options provides an important foundation for water management and policy. Computer models and databases provide an integrated view of how these complex aspects of water management interact and perform locally, regionally, and statewide as well as a standardized and transparent means of comparing alternatives. Water management in California currently lacks a broad and consistent water management accounting and modeling capability suitable for exploring policy and operational alternatives to meet current and future challenges of population and economic growth, environmental sustainability, and climate change. This problem is too big for any one organization.

Mission The mission of the Modeling and Analysis of California's Hydrologic Resources and Operations (MACHRO) at the University of California - Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences is to develop and support models, data, and their application for providing insights for water policy and management. This enterprise will work cooperatively with agencies, NGOs, consultants, academic researchers, and others to provide a venue for the water community broadly to develop and apply models for better understanding and developing solutions to water and environmental problems in California and elsewhere.

Role within UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences seeks to provide a collaborative venue for research in water-related subjects for researchers on and off the UC Davis campus. The Center's approach has been successful for projects on the Cosumnes River, Klamath and Shasta River system, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and other water management issues where scientific and technical aspects have been insufficiently explored or developed. Taking this approach into the quantification and modeling realm, MACHRO venture will develop water management modeling and databases. The program will take a collaborative approach to developing, testing, documenting, and applying major water and environmental management models, primarily for California.

Principles Products and documentation are in the public domain. The Program's work will be done to academic levels of transparency and non-advocacy. There is no modeling without documentation. The activities of the Consortium are intended provide new technical capability to benefit the water modeling community, not to displace the activities of existing agencies and consultants. We model for the problem, not the software or a particular technique, but intend to construct a long-term coherent framework and data sets which will have broad and long-term utility, as models evolve and are replaced.


  • Initial areas of activity would be focused on a modeling and data frameworks for regional and statewide water supplies, demands, and their management, particularly those needed by state and regional agencies and public interest organizations.
  • The program will be involved in developing a strategic plan for its activities within the broader activities of others in the water community.
  • Collaborative and independent model and data development, testing, and documentation
  • Model evaluation
  • Model and database maintenance
  • Short courses
  • Application studies
  • Student modeling experience
  • Agency, NGO, academic, and consulting staff rotations, education, short courses, and training

Contact Jay R. Lund, Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Staff The program maintains a core of professional (non-student, non-faculty) staff at the UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center. These are aided by staff from other consortium members, graduate students, and some agency, NGO, and consulting staff. In addition, the program takes advantage of additional researchers and students from the UC Davis and other campuses, as well as NGOs and consultants as needed for particular activities.

Supporting Faculty and Researchers (current)

Current Projects

  • Hydropower re-licensing - Modeling to explore regional and adaptive management solutions for FERC re-licensing applications
  • Salinity and water demands in the Central Valley - SWRCB
  • Visions for the Delta - PPIC
  • Conjunctive use operations in the Central Valley - TNC
  • Uncertainty analysis for CALSIM, Databases for CALSIM, Automated unit weight determination - DWR
  • Climate change and water management in California - CEC

Completed Work

CALVIN - Integrated economic-engineering optimization model of California's statewide water supply system. HEC-PRM software. (PIs: Jay Lund, Richard Howitt) Applications include:

  1. First database of statewide water management infrastructure, surface and groundwater inflows, and water demands
  2. Economic valuation of expanded reservoir and conveyance capacities
  3. Groundwater conjunctive use potential and limitations
  4. Water marketing potential and limitations
  5. Climate warming effects and adaptations for California
  6. Extended drought adaptations and impacts for California
  7. Hetch Hetchy removal re-operations for water supply and hydropower
  8. Baja California - California trans-boundary water management issues
  9. Delta export and outflow policy adaptations and impacts

SWAP - Statewide Agricultural Production Model - a model of crop economics and production for California. GAMS software. (PI: Richard Howitt)

  1. Economic valuation of monthly water deliveries for 24 irrigation areas throughout California for 2020, 2050, and 2100
  2. Economic valuation of agricultural water deliveries for 2050 and 2100 with climate change

FREDSIM - Friant Economically-Driven Simulation - economic-engineering simulation model of water deliveries and conjunctive use in the USBR Friant project. MODSIM and MODFLOW software. (PIs: Thomas Harter, Jay Lund)

  1. Estimation of effects of changes in water availability and price on surface and ground water use and economic production in the Friant service area.

Water purchase optimization - Environmental Water Account purchase optimization using explicit stochastic optimization. GAMS software. (PI: Jay Lund)

  1. Least-cost water purchasing strategies for the environmental water account considering multiple hydrologic, economic, and water requirement uncertainties
  2. Similar models developed for water purchase strategies for urban or agricultural water utilities.

Household Water Demand Modeling - Derived demand models of household water use considering long and short-term water conservation efforts and various water pricing structures. Excel and GAMS software. (PI: Jay Lund)

  1. Proof of concept applications to California circumstances, including examination of demand hardening
  2. Detailed application to Amman, Jordan
  3. Models can assess the economic value of changing the probability distribution of household water availability

Levee planning over long periods - Economic risk-based optimization of levee height and setback over multi-decadal periods with urbanization and climate change. Visual Basic software, some CPLEX. (PI: Jay Lund)

  1. Preliminary application to the lower American River

Watershed Management Modeling - Use of graphical simulation modeling to assemble information regarding basin water management. WEAP software. (PI: Mimi Jemkins)

  1. Application to the Ngoro watershed, Kenya

Off-campus collaborating agencies and groups

  • Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI)
  • DWR - DPLA
  • DWR - Modeling Support Branch
  • US Army Corps of Engineer, Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC)