Grant awarded to CSU to improve water management in California

The State Water Resources and Control Board has awarded a $2.3 million grant to help university students take a bigger role in improving water management and efficiency in California’s disadvantaged communities.

Plans for the funding include paid student internships at a new Disadvantaged Communities Center, which will be assisting underserved communities around California. 

The State Water Board will be identifying communities that need assistance and allocating them to the center which will then work with local universities near the community, as well as other organizations, to improve water conditions.  

Cal State students will get the chance to help improve both water sustainability and efficiency, mitigating the effects of the state’s recent drought. This new student-driven approach to water conservation plans to accomplish academic goals while also improving quality of life for communities around California.

Sonoma State University has already gotten its feet wet when it comes to water conservation and sustainability. Since 2012, the Cal State system has been working with the Sonoma County Water Agency in a program called the Watershed Academics to Enhance Regional Sustainability Collaborative. 

WATERS enables students to work with the County on watershed projects, garnering hands-on experience for students while simultaneously improving the county’s water quality. 

Shirlee Zane, Sonoma County supervisor in District 3, said she believes the WATERS Collaborative has a bright future. 

“I am particularly excited about the work of the WATERS Collaborative,” Zane said. “The innovative partnership between Sonoma State faculty and the Sonoma County Water Agency is effectively linking water management challenges of our region to student training opportunities across the SSU campus.”

Dr. Claudia Luke, WATERS coordinator and director of the Center for Environmental Inquiry, said the new Disadvantaged Communities Center will function similarly to WATERS, and she couldn’t be more excited about it. 

“They (The Water Resources and Policy Initiatives) are taking the WATERS Collaborative approach – linking students and faculty from all disciplines to work together on complex environmental challenges in the community,”  Luke said. “I love that students across the state will be able to study the diversity of ways that water affects our communities, and at the same time get a chance to see how their skills are needed to work on the environmental challenges we are facing.”

WATERS works on projects such as the long-term monitoring of erosion at Copeland Creek and mitigating trail erosion at Sonoma State’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve. 

Copeland Creek has been monitored since 2011, before the creation of WATERS. Currently WATERS is working with the city of Rohnert Park to create an automated early warning system to reduce flood damage. 

“The rain gauge at Sonoma State’s ’s Osborn Preserve automatically detects intense rainfall and sends messages to city personnel,” Luke said. “The next stages are to expand the system to provide real-time data to response personnel in formats that they need to mount an effective response.”

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