Expanding Success

The World Water initiative builds on the successes of the UC Davis campus in research engaged in practical problems.  Water is among the most fundamental problems of any society.  UC Davis has a long history of pivotal involvement in understanding and finding solutions for water problems in California and globally. 

The tenets of our success are to engage deeply with problems, from an independent academic perspective, and to cultivate, hire and collaborate broadly with productive researchers, students, and leaders on water problems in our teaching and research.  We also communicate broadly and deeply, including our CaliforniaWaterBlog with over 10,000 subscribers.  Continuing deeply engaged scientific leadership across disciplines on water problems is critical to sustaining the success of our work. 

We look forward to expanding our policy-engaged, problem-focused research and education involving multiple disciplines to provide non-advocacy, non-partisan insights that improve public and policy discussions and solutions.

Some Major Policy Informing Accomplishments

California Flood Management legislation in the later 2000s rested substantially on UC Davis expertise. Recently, UC Davis has been leading innovations and analysis of flood insurance policies nationally and for California.  We are also engaged globally in solving flood problems as with the Dulcepamba Project.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the major hub of California's water system: In collaboration with the Public Policy Institute of California, researchers at UC Davis led a major research effort to modernize understanding of the problems of the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta.  Envisioning Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta led to major changes in policy and community discussions of this eternally difficult California water problem. This work was central to major California's Delta Reform Act of 2009 on the governance and regulation of the Delta and a variety of ongoing Delta programs and initiatives.  UC Davis continues to lead in this area, in collaboration with others.

Nitrate Contamination of Groundwater is among the world's most vexing problems, with public health and ecological impacts in most major agricultural areas of the world.  The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences led a major report on groundwater nitrate contamination in California's Tulare and Salinas basins, improving understanding of the causes, extent, and future of this problem, as well as policy assessments of management alternatives, their costs, and potential policies for implementing solutions.  These analyses were fundamental in changing the direction of nitrate contamination policy discussions in California and the United States.

Native Fish Assessments provide a scientific basis for water and ecosystem policy and management.  The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences developed the PISCES spatial database describing the range and extent of all native and non-native fishes in California.  The database is used in many projects and publications, allowing researchers to look at long-term species trends.  In 2017, the Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout released the State of the Salmonids, a comprehensive synthesis report that documents status and trends of all salmon species in California with specific recommendations for recovery.  The assessments made by UC Davis are fundamental to environmental policy and management in California.

Managed seasonal flooding of floodplains supports waterfowl restoration in California and shows great promise for restoring native fish species as well. The Center has made significant contributions to understanding floodplain ecology in Yolo Bypass and the Cosumnes River.  These projects link floodplain processes to native fish benefits and rely on diverse community partnerships to create off channel habitat for juvenile fishes in agricultural landscapes throughout the Central Valley.  Floodplain habitat research at UC Davis points to promising opportunities for sustaining native fishes in California, and globally.

Spring-fed streams

Water System Analysis is central to developing effective solutions to water problems and comparing their performance for policy discussions.  UC Davis has developed several generations of optimization and simulation models that explore how California's extensive water management system could adapt to changes in climate, water demands, infrastructure, and policy, using the open data system HOBBES. This work has provided fundamental insights on effects of new infrastructure, climate change, Delta conveyance, water markets, and regional flexibility for water supply in California and globally.

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation


Groundwater Management

Drought Analysis and Policy


Expedition-based coursework  Ecogeomorphology graduate and undergraduate classes, Grand Canyon

Water Policy Seminars

Faculty – Perhaps the main measure of success for an academic research organization is how many people leave the organization to become leaders in other similar organizations.  Here, CWS’ record is simply extraordinary.  Within the last 10 years, this small organization has lost researchers in two main ways – retirement of researchers to emeritus status (e.g, Mount, Howitt, Fleenor, and Moyle) and the departure of post-doctoral and professional researchers for faculty positions at research universities (Sarah Null – Utah State; Josh Viers and Josue Medellin-Azuara – UC Merced; Ted Grantham – UC Berkeley).  Although insecure academics see our work as an impure miscegenation of academic disciplines, many major universities see the strengths of hybridization.


Link to ecuador artlcle from ecuador

link to grand canyon

Nitrate Projects

delta projects

successful collaborations: Berkeley, Merced, PPIC




Things to add (links + image: Charismatic)

grand canyon