Volume 8 | Issue 1 | September 2021
California Institute for Water Resources
University of California| Division of Ag and Natural Resources
On the left, researchers Greg Jesmok and Deepshikha Upadhyay sample water from Quail Lake, photo by P.Ganguli. On the right, Dr. Adrianne Smits prepares to deploy an instrument in a lake in Yosemite National Park, photo by Steven Sadro.
Announcing our newly supported research projects
The California Institute for Water Resources leverages federal investment to address critical water issues in the state. This year, we are supporting projects on a range of timely topics:

Deep groundwater recharge and healthy soil management practices: California has one of the most diverse and productive agricultural economies in the world and relies on the use of surface water deliveries as well as groundwater pumping to meet the crop water use needs. To maintain the agricultural economy of the state and sustain it far into the future, steps should be taken to increase the sustainable use of groundwater resources and protect soils. Researchers will investigate links between soil and agricultural management practices and the movement of water deep into the profile that will ultimately recharge the aquifer below. Investigator: Nathaniel Bogie, San Jose State. 

Assessing wildlife use of three types of agricultural ditches: Vegetated agricultural ditches provide environmental benefits, such as filtration and removal of sediment, but they may also encourage the presence of wildlife near or in crops, posing potential food safety risks. Lack of information about food safety risks posed by wildlife in agricultural ditches impedes implementation of a practice proven to improve water quality. This study addresses this gap in knowledge by comparing rodent and amphibian communities among agricultural ditches having bare ground, managed vegetation, and unmanaged vegetation. Investigator: Jennifer Duggan, California State University, Monterey Bay.

Assessing contaminant distributions and sources in Castaic Lake: Castaic Lake, located outside of Los Angeles, California is the third-largest water storage facility associated with the California State Water Project and is regularly utilized for fishing and recreation. It is also one of 131 California reservoirs listed as impaired due to mercury concentrations in fish. This study aims to identify primary sources of mercury to the lake and to provide a baseline of water quality data for comparison to future conditions. Investigators: Priya Ganguli and Scott Hauswirth, California State University, Northridge.

Understanding historical and future drought: On average, droughts cause economic damage on the order of billions of dollars annually in the United States. While droughts have been extensively studied, large knowledge gaps exist in the current understanding of how a drought propagates or evolves through the water cycle. The aim of this project is to address these gaps by characterizing the linkages between different types of droughts using historical data and future projections. Investigator: Laurie Huning, California State University, Long Beach. 

Better understanding where water goes when it rains: Understanding how rainfall becomes streamflow or groundwater is critical to managing water quality and quantity, as well as groundwater sustainability. Yet knowledge about how precipitation gets into streams and aquifers remains incomplete because of a lack of field-scale data. Quantifying where water that ends up in rivers and wells originates from, and the importance of rainstorms on groundwater recharge, will help decision-makers better understand the ramifications of a more intense water cycle arising from climate change. Investigator: Scott Jasechko, UC Santa Barbara.

Climate-smart actions and indicators for increasing soil water capacity: Facing drought and climate change, California growers are regulated and incentivized to increase irrigation efficiency and build soil health. However, there is a knowledge-action gap between soil health best management practices and increases in soil water holding capacity. This research aims to identify key barriers to the adoption of best practices that have great potential for improving water conservation and long-term drought resilience. Investigator: Mallika Nocco, UC Davis. 

Comprehensive characterization and analysis of legal controls on groundwater extractions: Recent droughts have highlighted the value of aquifers in securing water and the impact on aquifers from groundwater depletion. This research focuses on developing a comprehensive review of how western states regulate new groundwater extractions to provide a framework of allocation systems. The framework will inform groundwater management and increase the accessibility of legal information to policy makers and communities to help ensure that groundwater management is sustainable and equitable. Investigator: Debra Perrone, UC Santa Barbara. 

Disentangling the mechanisms through which mega-wildfires affect lake productivity: Wildfire is one of the most pressing management challenges facing western North America. Smoke and ash deposition have become pervasive and long-lasting features of the landscape and affect lakes in ways that are not well understood. This project will disentangle the interactive effects of reduced solar radiation, elevated presence of smoke, and increased atmospheric deposition of particulates and ash in lake systems to improve management in the face of increasing wildfires. Investigator: Steven Sadro, UC Davis. 

Drought Information
In the midst of drought, California’s academic institutions serve as a tremendous resource on everything from near-term management strategies to long-term research.

Our Water and Drought Information portal provides resources for farmers and ranchers, land managers, and residents. Highlights include:

  • The series bring timely, relevant expertise on water and drought from around the UC system and beyond directly to interested communities. At this time, over 30 talks on topics ranging from drought impacts to natural resources to water management in urban areas are available, with new presentations continuing to be added.

  • To help growers and others make the best use of the water they have available, this drought management science-based, peer-reviewed series was developed by the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources with support from the California Department of Water Resources. 

For up-to-the-minute drought resources and expertise, please visit us at ucanr.edu/drought and follow us on Twitter @ucanrwater.
Institute updates
In June, Institute Director Doug Parker finished his term as President of the National Institutes for Water Resources and his term on the Board of the Universities Council On Water Resources. He continues to serve on multiple science and policy committees including as a Science Subject Matter Expert to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel. In addition, the Institute continues it work to produce diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) materials and communications. Doug served on the University of California Office of the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force which addressed DEI issues within the University’s workplace.

To continue to provide quality programs during Covid, the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy has temporarily pivoted to an online webinar format. The Forum has three additional webinars scheduled for the upcoming year.

The Institute continues its partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide growers with technical assistance for Climate Smart Agricultural practices. We also moved our nitrogen and irrigation training for Certified Crop Advisors online by hosting our first course in the fall/winter of 2020. We are just finishing our second offering of the course. In addition, the Institute recently received an award from the California Department of Food and Agriculture for a new nitrogen and irrigation management program. This program will place 7-12 staff scientist in county cooperative extension offices. These scientists will work with UC ANR county Advisors to directly assist growers with nitrogen and irrigation management needs. 
Faith Kearns, Academic Coordinator, has a new book out titled Getting to the Heart of Science Communication, published by Island Press. It has received excellent reviews and been covered in Science and Grist, as well as featured on Climate One and several other podcasts. In addition, she has recently co-hosted and co-produced a second season of the podcast Water Talk with Mallika Nocco and Sam Sandoval of UC Davis. In the wake of drought and wildfires in California, Faith has spoken with journalists from the Washington Post, the LA Times, the Guardian, KQED, and more, as well as participated in a drought press briefing hosted by the Pacific Institute and Circle of Blue. Along with UC ANR colleagues Vikram Koundinya and Susie Kocher, she published a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Extension on disasters in California. Finally, Faith has recently given talks to many groups, including extension educators, the UC California Naturalist program, Fire Exchange Network, and many others.
Water Talk Podcast Season 2
Mallika Nocco, Faith Kearns, and Sam Sandoval have recently released the second season of their Water Talk podcast. The season featured a wide variety of guests from across California discussing a diverse array of topics. Kicking off the season was a conversation with well-known peach farmer and writer David 'Mas' Masumoto. Several guests discussed agricultural topics including UC ANR's Jairo Diaz on low-desert agriculture, emeritus viticulture advisor Glenn McGourty on north coast wines, and advisor and county director Laura Snell on ranching and wild horses in Modoc County.

In addition, key episodes focused on groundwater equity issues, including discussions with Kristin Dobbin (UC Davis) and Darcy Bostic (Pacific Institute), and Angel Fernandez-Bou (UC Merced) and Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida (Union of Concerned Scientists). Cutcha Risling Baldy of Humboldt State discussed Indigenous water perspectives in a two-part conversation. Erik Porse of Sac State discussed urban water management, and Janet Hartin (UC ANR) and Amir Haghverdi (UC Riverside) talked about urban landscaping and drought. A conversation with Joan Dudney of UC Davis focused on drought in the Sierra. The season ended with a two-part conversation with Felicia Marcus, former head of the state water board and a fellow at the Stanford Water in the West Program.

Season 3 will be released in the spring of 2022. Listen in to both seasons 1 and 2 wherever you get podcasts and at watertalkpodcast.com.
Michael Mendez at the Port of Long Beach (left), photo by Keith Carlsen. Grace Woodmansee on ranch land in Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County (right), photo by Nichole Stevens.
On our blog The Confluence
We've covered lots of new issues and people on our blog, The Confluence. We've written about UC Agriculture and Natural Resources advisors including Claudia Diaz Carrasco and her efforts to develop culturally appropriate youth water programs, Grace Woodmansee's work on rangeland drought, and Katherine Jarvis-Shean's boron rootstock trials.

You can also read about work by others in the UC and CSU systems including Aradhna Tripati (UCLA) and her efforts to retain environment and water scholars through community, Michael Mendez (UC Irvine) and his work on environmental justice and climate change, water access work by Greg Pierce at UCLA, and Kristine Diekman's (CSU San Marcos) project capturing images and words about how drought impacts communities in the Central Valley.

We've also had many guests posts including from Christina Hecht of the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute writing about safe drinking water, environmental horticulture advisor John Karlik with two pieces on water conservation in residential landscaping, and Dana Brady on climate-smart agriculture success stories.

Water Webinar Series
Join us for the UC ANR Water Webinar series on the third Friday of the month at 3pm PT, beginning September 17, 2021 with a talk titled "Running dry? Quantifying California’s ongoing drought" by John Abatzoglou, UC Merced. Subsequent speakers include Maura Allaire, UC Irvine; Jay Lund, UC Davis; and Rebecca Ryals, UC Merced.

This seminar series, organized by the ANR Water Program Team led by Ellen Bruno and Safeeq Khan, provides a virtual platform to get to know water-interested colleagues inside and outside the university, share ideas, build networks, and learn about ongoing and upcoming issues and challenges in California water.

This is the third year of the series, and you can add the dates and speakers to your calendar and catch up on all the talks in the series at ciwr.ucanr.edu/WaterWebinar.
“A reliable supply of water for drinking, growing food and sustaining our natural resources remains one of California’s greatest challenges. UC’s California Institute for Water Resources is vital to integrating California’s research, extension, and education programs to help mitigate current water-related issues and develop practical long-term solutions.”

Secretary Karen Ross, California Dept. of Food & Agriculture