Hydrology and Water Policy Program | Spotlight

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  • Mojave Desert spring
    Mojave Desert spring
  • Mojave Desert basin
    Mojave Desert basin
  • Arizon hydrology
    Arizona hydrology
  • Verde Valley, Arizona, dwelling
    Verde Valley, Arizona, dwelling
  • Water Quality Lab at CSULA
    Water Quality Lab at CSULA

From precipitation to policy, CSULA students immersed in study of watersheds

Department of Education grant helps Cal State L.A. launch new Hydrology and Water Policy Program

By collecting water samples from a Mojave Desert spring and analyzing the river watershed in Verde Valley, Arizona, some Cal State L.A. “hydrologists-in-training” hope to soak up a clearer understanding of recent water issues in the Southwestern United States. Down stream—figuratively—they also hope it will enhance their career prospects.

As participants of a recently launched Hydrology and Water Policy Program at Cal State L.A., seven CSULA students are studying rules regarding distribution of water, integration of groundwater basin management, and hydrological processes (precipitation, runoff, water contamination, and groundwater recharge).

“Water availability is intertwined with the economic stability and growth of our region,” said Geology Professor Barry Hibbs. “As we address our dependence on imported water—along with our limited water resources due to drought conditions, climate change, environmental pollutants and population growth—we are providing students the opportunity to go out in the field to discover workable solutions. We are challenging them to become creative thinkers and problem-solvers.”

Directed by its co-principal investigators, Hibbs and Andre Ellis of geology, the interdisciplinary program includes four new courses, a community-service project and a Hydrology and Water Policy Certificate.

The following are the four special-topics courses:

  • Southwestern Water Sustainability (GEOL 490/491 being offered this spring quarter)
  • Field and Laboratory Methods in Hydrology (class to be offered in fall 2010)
  • Issues and Protocols for Water Security in the United States (class to be offered in spring 2011)
  • Transboundary Aquifer and Environmental Management along the U.S./Mexico Border (class to be offered in fall 2011)

The program also aims to engage underrepresented and other graduate students in water sustainability and water security education and training. It is funded through a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is an outgrowth of Hibbs’ previous work with the highly-regarded CEA-CREST Program at Cal State L.A.

A key goal of the program is to equip students with the latest knowledge and science in hydrological technology and planning, in order to increase the recruitment pipeline for agencies and organizations. According to Hibbs, “Well-trained hydrologists are of great interest to land managers, environmental agencies, water purveyors, policy makers, and non-profit groups.”

The grant also supports field travel and professional development support for hydrogeology graduate students’ thesis work, such as current research projects by Daethina Garcia, Christiane Ortega and Luz Vargas.

Ortega said, “I appreciate the fact that this new program is allowing CSULA faculty to update and expand hydrology coursework at Cal State L.A., while providing me financial support to attend and present my thesis research at an international conference in Texas.”

Hydrology: The science encompassing the behavior of water as it occurs in the atmosphere, on the surface of the ground, and underground (as defined by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1949). In practice, the study of the water of the oceans is considered part of oceanography, and that of the atmosphere is considered part of meteorology. (For a detailed glossary, see the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Science in Your Watershed/General Introduction and Hydrologic Definitions: http://water.usgs.gov/wsc/glossary.html)

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