News | March 14, 2014

Amid Drought Crisis, Cal State-San Marcos Unveils New Water Management Program

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Just days before President Barack Obama announced that the federal government will be providing California with millions in dollars of aid to address its ongoing drought issues, a state university research group announced the offering of its new water management solutions program.

The Extended Learning arm of California State University at San Marcos announced the establishment of a new course, "Survey of Water Management in Southern California," which was developed collaboratively with local industry leaders to incorporate studies of water usage, disposal, recycling and infrastructure, as well as the myriad impacts of resource shortages. Local experts will conduct three-hour evening lectures as well as Saturday tours of area water facilities, with the program culminating in a practicum research project that will allow students to address a current local issue faced by the region's many organizations looking to improve water management.

The program, announced in a Feb. 12 release, is also intended to serve as an outline and introductory tool for students who may be interested in water management career opportunities.

The timing is not coincidental, given the gravity of the situation currently facing the state of California, where farmers, ranchers and agricultural communities throughout the state have been challenged by some of the worst drought conditions in the state's history.

"Given the current and historical water crises we have faced in California, and the paucity of relevant water management training programs, we believe this program will help fill a critical regional need," said Mike Schroder, the Dean of Extended Learning at CSUSM. "We have intentionally developed the curriculum to incorporate theory history and applied learning so participants have the foundation needed to begin to effectively address some of the vexing water management issues we face."

Plans for federal assistance were detailed Feb. 14, when President Obama met with California Gov. Jerry Brown in Fresno, at the heart of the state's affected Central Valley. In that area, farmers have been forced to leave thousands of acres of normally fertile farmland - the supply source for a large chunk of the country's fruits and vegetables. Drinking water in certain rural Central Valley towns has become so depleted that the state is considering trucking supplies in, according to an Insurance Journal report.

"The federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress," Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told IJ. "We are here to help, to the extent that we can."

Crisis management
The immediate plan is for the distribution of some $100M in federal aid, to be dispersed among ranchers to help feed livestock and as compensation for unrecouped losses. The USDA will also be pooling approximately $15M in conservation aid for the most-affected regions throughout California and for five other drought-ravaged states, aiming primarily to reduce wind erosion, treat damaged fields and provide livestock with access to water.

White House officials also announced that $60M was made available to California food banks for families in the affected areas, with plans for summer meal sites to be set up months down the line.

Water delivery remains a topic of contention politically, with Brown's proposal for the construction of two 30-mile water tunnels that would help pump between Northern and Southern California still up for debate. The governor has asked the public to actively reduce water consumption by 20 percent, following a 2013 calendar year that was the driest on record.

For its part the CSUSM course will serve as a precursor for those looking to obtain their Water Resources Management Certificate and join the fight to address the state's ever-present supply needs.

SOURCE: Master Meter, Inc.