Augmented Reality Sandbox Hits Worldwide Milestone

By Becky Oskin

With more than 500 installations on six continents, the UC Davis Augmented Reality, or AR, Sandbox, has become a worldwide phenomenon.

The Augmented Reality Sandbox shows how land forms affect water flow. (UC Davis KeckCAVES)

The AR Sandbox brings earth science to life by merging hands-on play with digital effects. The setup combines a real sandbox with a motion-sensing camera (such as a Microsoft 3D Kinect) and a digital projector. As people shape the sand with their hands or with tools, the camera detects the changes and a computer projects colors depicting elevation, vividly illustrating the principles of topographic maps. Users can also create rainstorms, lakes and rivers and immediately see how reshaping the sand surface changes the water flow.

California Water-Saving Drive Saved Energy, Too

California’s drive to save water during the drought had a double benefit: it saved a lot of energy as well.

Graphs of water and energy use

This interactive website shows how California cities and water districts saved energy and water

In April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent cut in urban water consumption in the face of continuing drought. Water suppliers were required to report their progress to the State Water Resources Control Board. Now analysis of those figures by researchers Edward Spang, Andrew Holguin and Frank Loge at the UC Davis Center for Water-Energy Efficiency shows that while the state came within 0.5 percent of the water conservation goal, California also saved 1830 GigaWatt-Hours of energy — enough to power more than 270,000 homes.

$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.