Hydrology Professor educates D.C. on Climate Change and Water in the West

Leigh Bernacchi
November 30, 2016

Prof. Helen Dahlke could take a seat in a presidential chair.Professor Helen Dahlke has stood on glaciers in Europe and studied Sierra Nevada snowmelt streams. She’s working with alfalfa farmers to get water back in the ground. And now she’s educating Congress on the future of US water.

A native of Germany, Professor Dahlke established her research program in the Land, Air and Water Resources Department of UC Davis in 2013. She focuses on catchment and experimental hydrology, but her expertise in hydro-climate interactions is what led her to the Capitol.

Dahlke spoke broadly about the water and climate problems in California. “I described how agricultural groundwater banking can help to improve water security in California,” said Dahlke. Adding, “I had an awesome trip.”

After a training in science communication by Compass, the science engagement group organized a two-day trip to Washington D.C to discuss climate change and the future of water in the West. Read more in their brief.

Dahlke joined up with four more climate and water science experts:

  • Amy Snover, Director, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington
  • Shawn Carter, National Climate Change and Wildlife Center, US Geological Survey
  • Brian Chaffin, Assistant Professor of Water Policy, University of Montana
  • Reed Benson, Professor of Water Law, University of New Mexico

On the first day, they met with staff from the Congressional Research Service, held a briefing to about 70 representatives and staff inside the Capitol, followed by a side meeting with staff from the Senate and the House. On the second day they met with staff of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Management and Budget (an executive office of the White House).

If any of these legislative and program offices listened to Dahlke and colleagues, western water resources will be better studied, funded and resilient under future climate conditions.