UC Water grants quench California's research needs

Leigh Bernacchi
October 23, 2015


UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative doubled its drought expertise by funding $210,000 in new research proposals. 

UC Merced is the lead institution of UC Water, and the grant program enables research in new areas and deepens understanding of how water is accounted for and used in the state. 

UC Water brings the unbiased power of the UC system to the state’s water challenges. 

“These challenge grants broaden the integration of UC Water's strategic research to actively engage five more of UC’s top water researchers,” UC Water Director Professor Roger Bales said. “Awards will further leverage UC Water's research on groundwater management, water-resources information systems, water accounting and beyond.”  

One of the projects funded will clarify data from the snowmelt systems of the Sierra Nevada. UC Water campus director and UC Merced Professor Martha Conklin will partner with UC Berkeley professors Ram Akella and Steve Glaser to develop computer science systems that will ensure reservoir managers receive clean data on how much water is coming in. 

The other large seed grant for cross-campus initiatives combines the strengths of UC Merced Professor Marc Beutel, UC Berkeley’s Stephanie Carlson and lead investigator Professor Jay Lund of UC Davis. Their work will optimize reservoir management as well, with a focus on water temperatures and quality related to fish needs. 

Three match-grant awards of $30,000 each will support ongoing research efforts. 

Josue Medellin-Azuar, photo credit: Center for Watershed SciencesUC Davis researcher Josue Medellin-Azuara (pictured left) is working to improve land and consumptive use information by deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones to measure evapotranspiration. 

Kate Scow, photo credit: soils.orgProfessor Kate Scow (pictured right) and Extension Specialist Daniele Zaccaria, both of UC Davis, will work on the same long-term agricultural research site, UC Davis Russell Ranch, to study the application of innovative technologies for estimating water use in row crops.

The role of institutions in water resources decision making is critical to UC Water’s engagement at the intersection of science and policy. Professor Ruth Langridge of UC Santa Cruz will work with graduate students to study sustainable groundwater management in adjudicated basins. By studying the spectrum of management, UC Water can contribute to best practices.

In the first of three cycles of annual challenge grants, UC Water is allocating two years of funding: $210,000 to UC Water collaborators and investigators to address the critical needs of California’s water system. Grants were announced at the annual retreat in the delta, where 30 UC Water scientists met for the first time.

Jay Lund, photo credit: Center for Watershed Sciences

UC Water’s next steps include translating these results into useful tools and information for state water resources decision-makers and managers.

UC Water 2015-2016 Challenge Grant titles and investigators are:

  • Data‐integration and information‐management system for water security analytics              
    Ramakrishna Akella (UC Santa Cruz/UC Berkeley), Stephen Glaser (UC Berkeley)
  • Hedging for flow and temperature operation of reservoirs for fish during drought    
    Jay Lund (UC Davis) (pictured right), Stephanie Carlson (UC Berkeley), Mark Beutel (UC Merced)
  • Adjudicated basins and the sustainable management of groundwater                                        
    Ruth Langridge (UC Santa Cruz) (pictured right)
  • Ruth Langridge, photo credit: Maven's NotebookUse of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UASs) for improving land and consumptive use information in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta                                                     
    Josue Medellin-Azuara (UC Davis)
  • Application of innovative technologies for estimating water use in irrigated row crops for use in water resource management and planning                                              
    Kate Scow (UC Davis), Daniele Zaccaria (UC Davis)