Sonoma State University has received a $330,000 grant from the Sonoma County Water Agency for academic and sustainability programs in the University's WATERS collaborative.
"Our goal is to train a ready workforce for the Sonoma County Water Agency and other local organizations, and to give students active experience in the field," says Claudia Luke, director of Sonoma State's Center for Environmental Inquiry (CEI) and coordinator for WATERS (Watershed Academics To Enhance Regional Sustainability), which is part of CEI.
The WATERS collaborative maximizes academic participation in local watershed management projects. It was started in 2012 and received its first three-year grant from the water agency in December 2013. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted Nov. 15 to renew the grant for a further three years.
As part of the grant, students investigate the effects of erosion and sediment displacement on the local ecosystem.
"Students are on the forefront of answering questions posed by the Sonoma County Water Agency or local nonprofits," says Luke. "Working with these organizations provides a huge benefit for the students because it's more than just a class, they're really making a difference in the community and the environment."
The water research internship class at Sonoma State is a direct result of this funding. The class requires students to gather new information regarding water planning, usage, and the local environment, and present it at the annual Sonoma State Symposium on Research and Creativity at the end of the school year.
Part of this new contract will provide support for a class on the water planning tool developed in 2015 by Sonoma State's Environmental Studies and Planning Department. The tool evaluates maintenance costs, water, and carbon usage for development projects.
This program is especially important in the drought-stricken state of California. Rising costs of municipal water has caused public outcry and mandatory penalty fees. And rampant wildfires, fueled by the millions of dead, dried out trees now populating the state's forests, have burned thousands of acres.
This grant also continues funding restoration efforts for Copeland Creek, which has been an active goal of the collaborative since its founding.
The WATERS collaborative has also worked with organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and PG&E to carry out habitat management, sediment and erosion, and water quality projects. Since 2012, over 1,000 students have engaged in research projects, internships, and field studies and learned the importance of sustainability for Sonoma county and beyond.