Pioneering WATERS Collaborative Support Tripled to Foster Watershed Management Research, Careers at SSU

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Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane (Fifth District) comments upon the increased support for the WATERS Collaborative between SSU and the Sonoma County Water Agency. Zane referred to the work by SSU's "water school" as transformational for all involved.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved a three-year $204,318 grant to fund SSU's pioneering Watershed Academics for Sustainability (WATERS) Collaborative after a highly successful first year showed how the partnership with the Sonoma County Water Agency can serve the flood control needs of the local watershed.

The first year of activities of the Collaborative resulted in faculty/student research projects that led to several significant studies evaluating sedimentation, vegetation management (weed control), and water quality in different reaches of the Copeland Creek channel from the headwaters to the confluence with the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

chasetamayoatcreek.pngChase Takayo landed a seasonal job with the Sonoma County Water Agency as a result of his creek sedimentation research project for the WATERS Collaborative the first year. (Photo by Jean Wasp)

A Workforce in Watershed Management

The Water Agency and Sonoma State's agreement for the WATERS Collaborative in June 2012 was also aimed at creating a trained local workforce of Sonoma State graduates with knowledge, expertise, and interest in water management issues who could become future employees.

To meet the intent of the WATERS Collaborative and to consolidate related efforts (public education, stream and resource management, and environmental research) Water Agency staff recommended amending the initial agreement that included $48,000 spanning one year by funding an additional $68,000 each year for three years until 2016.

Claudia Luke, Director of the SSU Preserves, serves as the WATERS Coordinator. She said, "Faculty in disciplines across campus have done an amazing job engaging students in local watershed projects. I am excited about continuing to work with them to help identify regional land management challenges that create hands-on learning experiences for our students."

Under the new agreement confirmed this week, the scope will expand collaboration opportunities for 1200-1500 students across biology, chemistry, engineering, geography, restoration ecology, plant physiology, kinesiology, liberal and performing arts.

coresampling.jpegEngineering undergraduates and graduates will be involved with WATERS as part of water and atmospheric sensor development and environmental sensor network development projects which will assist with long term climate based water planning.

Reporting will be accomplished through a web site that provides a place to archive and search student and partner projects in the interest of knowledge sharing across disciplines and between governmental and non-governmental entities.

This approach to data sharing provides a significant resource to the Water Agency staff, customers, and partners supporting science-driven Water Agency initiatives, says Mike Thompson, Assistant General Manager at SCWA. Thompson is a key resource for the Collaborative providing guidance for SCWA goals.

Keenan Foster, a Principal Environmental Specialist, and SSU grad ('88 and '92) adds, "This provides an opportunity for the Water Agency to bring the expertise and focus of our local university to bear on some of the physical and environmental management approaches that affect the quality of life in Sonoma County."

Early Work With Native Plant Propagation

Since the founding of Sonoma State University in the mid 1960s, faculty, students, and staff have been engaged in issues surrounding the regional management of water resources, energy and sustainability. These activities have been enhanced by the campus' location on Copeland Creek.

Collaborations between Sonoma County Water Agency (Water Agency) staff and Sonoma State faculty and students have been on-going for many years. One example is the Sonoma State Plant Propagation program.

Since 2003, the Water Agency has contracted with Sonoma State to develop a native-plant propagation program that served the dual purpose of providing locally-collected plant material for the Water Agency's restoration and channel maintenance projects, and promoting education and practical training for SSU students.

Under these and other programs, many Sonoma State students have been engaged in a variety of Water Agency programs in environmental education, restoration, and contract work.

Since the Water Agency periodically needs research and investigation services that improve the effectiveness of the Water Agency's stream maintenance, water supply, energy, and sanitation services, the Watershed Academics for Sustainability Collaborative (WATERS) agreement supports and builds on these existing interactions between the Water Agency and the University.

For more information about WATERS, visit

MIDDLE, Students from Michelle Goman's geography class took core sediment samples in the Copleland Creek watershed.

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