March 2, 2009

Saying California’s drought is a crisis as serious as any earthquake or wildfire, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency. These UC Davis faculty and staff members have expertise on topics related to water economics policy and supplies at home, on farms and in the natural environment.


Water Supply and Demand Management — Engineering professor Jay Lund specializes in the management of water systems, from California’s large statewide system to local city and regional water systems. He and his colleagues have developed computer models of how California’s water system can adapt to changes in climate, infrastructure, water policies and droughts. He has also studied water policy in California, particularly the roles of water markets in California’s complex water system. He can explain why we have a water crisis even though it is raining. Contact: Jay Lund, Civil and Environmental Engineering, (530) 752-5671,,

Water Economics and Markets — Richard Howitt, professor and chair of Agricultural and Resource Economics, recently co-authored a paper on how Central Valley agriculture would be impacted by reductions in water exports from the Delta. He serves on advisory boards for the California Department of Water Resources and the National Academy of Sciences. Contact: Richard Howitt, Agricultural and Resource Economics, (530) 752-1521,


California Water Conflict — UC Davis sociologist John Walton can talk about the history and issues behind water as it relates to the state’s growth and the social rebellions it has produced. An expert on the political economy of development, Walton can also give a detailed history of how Los Angeles secured water sources from the Owens Valley. He is the author of “Western Times and Water Wars: State, Culture and Rebellion in California” (1992). Contact: John Walton, Sociology, (831) 659-1519,

History of California Water and Environment — History professor Louis Warren can talk about 19th- and 20th-century California water history in the context of Western environmental history. He teaches about 20th-century California history: immigration, environmental issues and demographic impacts. A specialist in environmental history, Warren can talk about the state’s general water background, such as the origins of the San Francisco and Los Angeles aqueducts and the draining of Tulare Lake in the San Joaquin Valley. Contact: Louis Warren, History, (530) 752-1633,

Klamath Basin Water Wars — Law professor Holly Doremus has written extensively about the summer of 2001, when the federal Bureau of Reclamation outraged farmers by stopping water deliveries in the Upper Klamath Basin in southern Oregon to conserve water for endangered species. It was the first time in U.S. history that the headgates of a federal irrigation project were closed in favor of conservation. The protests, vandalism and apocalyptic rhetoric that greeted the decision are the subject of Doremus’ 2008 book, “Water War in the Klamath Basin: Macho Law, Combat Biology, and Dirty Politics.” Written with a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, the book offers lessons for the future of water management and conservation in the arid West. Contact: Holly Doremus, School of Law, (530) 752-2879,


Water in Home Landscapes — Dave Fujino is the executive director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis, which promotes the efficient use of irrigation water in home and other landscapes. The center partners with campus researchers and county-based UC Cooperative Extension advisors on studies and outreach programs that help the public, communities, water management agencies, and conservation groups. Contact: Dave Fujino, California Center for Urban Horticulture, (530) 754-7739,

All-Star Plants for California — The UC Davis Arboretum horticultural staff has identified 100 “All-Stars” — tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and therefore support native birds and insects. Information on selecting proper plants for gardens is accessible through a user-friendly database Demonstration gardens containing these water-wise plants can be seen by the public at the UC Davis Arboretum, along with brightly colored signs identifying the Arboretum All-Stars, photos of the plants in bloom, lists of outstanding features and information about how to grow them. Contact: Ellen Zagory, UC Davis Arboretum, (530) 752-3145,

Landscape Irrigation Water Use — Qingfu Xiao, a UC Davis research scientist, studies urban water problems. He is working on using rainwater harvesting, urban landscape design and new materials to reduce landscape irrigation water use. He is coordinating his research with the Center for Urban Forest Research, a Davis-based program of the USDA Forest Service. Contact: Qingfu Xiao, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 759-1727,


Evapotranspiration and Irrigation Scheduling — Richard Snyder is a biometeorology specialist who estimates and measures evapotranspiration, the transport of water into the atmosphere from surfaces, including soil (soil evaporation), and from vegetation (transpiration). He was the principal investigator on the development of the California Irrigation Management Information System, helping growers to improve irrigation schedules. He also has expertise in urban watering. Contact: Richard Snyder, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-4628,,

Salinity and Water Quality in Irrigated Agriculture — Steve Grattan is a plant-water relations specialist who addresses salinity and water quality issues as they affect irrigated agriculture. His research areas include salinity effects on plants at the plant and field scale, agricultural drainage water reuse and management, salinity-trace element interactions in plants, and evapotranspiration. Contact: Stephen Grattan, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-4618,

Agriculture, from Tahoe to Napa — Hydrology professor Mark Grismer has a broad range of interests, from erosion and watershed modeling in the Tahoe Basin to building wetlands for filtering winery wastewater. He also studies the vadose zone of groundwater and the water use of agricultural crops. He works on water-use efficiency of agricultural crops as well as general infiltration, seepage and groundwater contributions to crop water use. He is a registered civil engineer. Contact: Mark Grismer, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-3243,

Growing Fruits and Nuts with Less Water — With most field and row crops, yield is directly related to how much water the plants consume — if you cut water by one-quarter, then the harvest is cut by one-quarter. But this is not the case with some major fruit and nut crops in California, according to studies by David Goldhamer, a UC Cooperative Extension water management specialist. Based at the Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier, Goldhamer has demonstrated that regulated deficit irrigation can reduce seasonal water use in navel oranges by 20 percent and actually increase crop revenue to the grower due to better fruit quality. The method also works on pistachio trees. Contact: David Goldhamer, Land, Air and Water Resources, located at Kearney Agricultural Center, (559) 646-6500,

Irrigation Water Management and Irrigation Systems on Farms — Blaine Hanson is a UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist who conducts research on crop water use of field and row crops, drip irrigation of row crops, methods of improving irrigation system performance and efficiency, and soil moisture monitoring for evaluating irrigation water management. He is involved in irrigation research on alfalfa (a crop that uses much of the water allocated to agriculture) and drip irrigation in processing tomatoes. Contact: Blaine Hanson, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-4639,

Reusing Waste Water for Irrigation — Steve Kaffka is a UC Cooperative Extension specialist who studies reusing wastewater for irrigation, crop water use, environmental quality relative to crop production, and ways to improve crop production efficiency. He also addresses policy-related issues in irrigation. His work focuses on the commodity and farming systems level. Contact: Stephen Kaffka, Plant Sciences, (530) 752-8108,

Water Stress and Irrigation of Fruit and Nut Trees and Vines — Professor and pomologist Ken Shackel studies plant physiological responses to water stress in trees and vines, and has determined that the best way to understand the level of stress in plants is to directly measure it using a device known as a pressure chamber (a.k.a. “pressure bomb”). Water stress in plants can be thought of as a mirror image of high blood pressure in humans; in plants, water is pulled by suction rather than pushed by pressure. Contact: Kenneth Shackel, Plant Sciences, (530) 752-0928,

Grapevine Water Stress — Mark Matthews is an environmental plant biology professor who studies how plants interact with the physical and chemical environment, particularly with respect to plant-water relations. His research lab’s long-term objective is to contribute to the improved use of limited resources (primarily water) in crop production by identifying and modifying the physiological mechanisms by which plants respond to limited resource availability. His investigations center on water transport, cell expansion and reproductive development. His field research is directed at improving the ability to identify and regulate vine water and nutrient status, allowing viticulturists to improve yield and quality. Contact: Mark Matthews, Viticulture and Enology, (530) 752-2048,

Water Use in Food Processing — Zhongli Pan is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and a research engineer at the Western Regional Research Center of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. He studies new food-processing technologies to reduce water usage in food processing. Many food-processing facilities use large amounts of water to process and cook products and to sanitize facilities. Research to reduce water usage focuses on developing infrared radiation heating technology to replace water and steam blanching and hot lye and steam peeling methods used in processing of fruits and vegetables. Contact: Zhongli Pan, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, (530) 752-4367,

The Future of Groundwater — Professor of hydrogeology Graham Fogg is a groundwater expert who can comment on sustainability of groundwater quality and quantity in the context of agricultural, urban and industrial pollutant sources and climate change. His research shows that groundwater quality in many basins is on a long-term (decades to centuries) decline that will increasingly impinge on water use. Fogg’s recent work on the Cosumnes River and aquifer system shows how historical groundwater development affected stream flows, and hence migration of salmon and viability of riparian habitat. Current research thrusts include the role of groundwater in hydrology of the Sierra Nevada, new methods for predicting human or ecosystem exposure to toxic compounds via groundwater transport, and new paradigms for subsurface storage of water under future climate scenarios. Contact: Graham Fogg, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-6810,

Groundwater Resources and Contamination — Thomas Harter, an expert on the effects of human activities and agriculture on groundwater resources and groundwater quality, holds the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy. Harter can discuss confined animal facilities (such as dairies and feed lots), groundwater contaminants (such as nitrates from fertilizer), pathogens (such as Cryptosporidium parvum, E. coli and salmonella), and emerging concerns (such as antibiotics, hormones and other pharmaceuticals). He also has expertise on salt intrusion in deep aquifers, surface water and groundwater resources management, computer modeling of groundwater basins, effects of drought on groundwater basins, and modeling of pollution. Harter is director of the UC Cooperative Extension Groundwater Hydrology Program. Contact: Thomas Harter, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-2709,

Root-Zone Water for Sustainable Ecosystems — Professor Jan Hopmans’ expertise in soil hydrology applies to both agricultural and natural ecosystems, with a focus on monitoring and modeling of soil water availability. Much of his research applies to irrigated agriculture, including its sustainability and impacts of global warming. His laboratory is developing innovative soil-moisture sensors that can be deployed in remote locations, with experiments currently under way at high elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Contact: Jan Hopmans, Land, Air and Water Resources, (530) 752-3060,

Livestock and Rangelands — Melvin George, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist, has expertise on rangeland forage production and effects on range livestock production. He presents workshops to help California farmers and ranchers reduce vulnerability to drought. He also has expertise on range and pasture improvement, grazing management, rangeland water quality, and ecological sites. Contact: Melvin George, Plant Sciences, (530) 752-1720,


Freshwater Fish — Professor Peter Moyle, the foremost expert on native freshwater and anadromous fishes (such as salmon) of California, can discuss their declines and the environmental causes, such as droughts, water diversions and alien species. Moyle advises state and national policymakers on the conservation of fish, amphibians and watersheds. He was a member of the blue-ribbon scientific panel that assessed the Klamath Basin situation in 2001, after federal agencies cut off irrigation water to farmers, and is a co-author of the 2008 UC Davis-Public Policy Institute of California report “Comparing Futures of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” He has worked on fish and ecological issues in the San Francisco Estuary, the San Joaquin River and the Sierra since the 1970s. Contact: Peter Moyle, Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, (530) 752-6355,

Water for Fish and Farms — Lisa Thompson is a UC Cooperative Extension specialist who focuses on the management of anadromous (salmon and steelhead) and inland fish populations. She has conducted studies of fish response to factors such as dam operations, irrigation diversions, water flow and temperature in the American River basin, Cow Creek (Sacramento Basin), the Shasta River (Klamath Basin), and the upper Salinas River Basin. She is currently involved in projects to predict the effects of climate change on Butte Creek spring-run chinook salmon, and to restore a naturally spawning population of Eagle Lake rainbow trout. Contact: Lisa Thompson, Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, (530) 754-5732,,

Bays, Estuaries and Floodplains — Ted Grosholz is the Alexander and Elizabeth Swantz Specialist in Cooperative Extension. He and his students have studied the consequences of altered precipitation patterns and reduced river outflow in habitats ranging from restored river floodplains, estuaries in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region and outer coast bays. His work has addressed the consequences of changing precipitation patterns on many levels of the food web, from plants and invertebrates to shorebirds. He is author of the California Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan and has been on several state, national and international panels addressing factors such as drought that contribute to biological invasions. Contact: Ted Grosholz, Environmental Science and Policy, (530) 752-9151,,

Hydrodynamic Effects on Water Quality — Researcher William Fleenor uses field data collection and computer models to examine how physical properties of water influence water quality. From water temperature of reservoir releases to water chemistry in stratified water systems, hydrodynamics play a large part in the resulting water quality. Fleenor develops models to examine hydrodynamic influences in lakes, reservoirs and estuaries. He is a co-author on the 2008 UC Davis-Public Policy Institute of California report “Comparing Futures of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” Contact: William Fleenor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, (530) 752-5669,

About UC Davis
For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science — and advanced degrees from five professional schools: Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. The UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Medical Center are located on the Sacramento campus near downtown.

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