$1.6M from NSF to Study Water, Land Use in Disadvantaged Communities

By Kat Kerlin

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.6M to the University of California, Davis to analyze the complex relationships between surface water and groundwater supply, agricultural land use and the economic wellbeing of rural, disadvantaged communities.

The project is led by principal investigator Helen Dahlke, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. The team will develop models to help guide decision-making regarding water management and land use in the state.

Helen Dahlke in field

Helen Dahlke studies how groundwater is used and replenished in California. (Tiffany Kocis/UC Davis)

Floods, Floodplains and Green Infrastructure in California’s Future

by Peter Moyle, Jeff Opperman, Amber Manfree, Eric Larson, and Joan Florshiem

The flooding in Houston is a reminder of the great damages that floods can cause when the defenses of an urban area are overwhelmed.  It is hard to imagine a flood system that could have effectively contained the historic amount of rain that fell on the region—several feet in just a few days.  However, these floods are a stark reminder of the increasing vulnerability of urban areas across the world and the need for comprehensive strategies to reduce risk.  The evidence is clear that green infrastructure, as defined below, can increase the resiliency of flood management systems and, when managed for multiple services, can reduce flood risk for many people while also promoting a range of other benefits.

Thin snowpack is bad news, especially for salmon

State water officials announced yesterday that the Sierra snowpack is 61 percent of normal for this time of year, making for the third dry year in a row and raising the possibility of water rationing in California. (DWR press release here; a video is also available).

“We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history.  It’s imperative for Californians to conserve water immediately at home and in their businesses,” said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources, in the press release.

Calif. farmers brace for a dry year

Despite a few days of rain around here recently, California is heading into its worst drought in decades, while water supplies through pumping systems are also dropping. That’s making farmers fallow or abandon their crops, and that will mean higher prices for produce this year.

Richard Howitt, a professor of agriculture economics at UC Davis, estimates that $1.6 billion in agriculture-related wages and as many as 60,000 jobs across the valley will be lost in the coming months due to dwindling water.

SacBee Delta feature

Sacbee.com has a major feature online and in print about the San Joaquin Delta, an issue Egghead has followed for some time, of course. Among the experts quoted are UC Davis professors Jeff Mount and Peter Moyle.

(Fisheries biologist) Moyle voted against the peripheral canal in 1982. But in July, he co-wrote a study for the Public Policy Institute of California that recommended building a canal. He became persuaded, he said, by the realities of the state’s water demand and the Delta’s limitations.

Water storage: Going underground

In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee published Friday, UC Davis hydrologist Graham Fogg offers a new possibility for managing California’s water supply: putting it underground, back into the natural aquifer systems of the Central Valley.

Much of California’s water supply is stored in the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada. But snowpacks are in long-term decline as more precipitation falls as rain and less as snow, Fogg says. Upgrading and building dams would not be enough to make up the shortfall.