Open-Water Unit Process Treatment Wetlands

Sunlight inactivation of viruses and bacteria in open-water unit process treatment wetlands: Modeling endogenous and exogenous inactivation rates

Where:  University of California, Berkeley and The Discovery Bay Constructed Treatment Wetland in Discovery Bay, California.

Who:  Professor Kara Nelson, Andrea Silverman

What:  Sunlight inactivation is the dominant mode of disinfection of bacteria and viruses in sunlit waters. The goal of this research project is to develop models that predict the sunlight inactivation rates of waterborne pathogens and fecal indicator organisms; these models can be used to better design natural wastewater treatment systems to meet disinfection goals. Current research focuses are to develop improved photoaction spectra to predict endogenous sunlight inactivation rates of the bacteria E. coli and Enterococcus faecalis, and to investigate the increased resistance of indigenous wastewater bacteria to sunlight, as compared to laboratory-grown bacteria of the same species. Both topics are critical gaps in our ability to model bacteria inactivation rates in surface waters.

Water Reuse Systems

Economic and Environmental Optimization of Decentralized Water Reuse Systems

Where: San Francisco

Who: Olga Kavvada, Arpad Horvath, Jenn Stokes, Kara Nelson

What: Decentralization can provide flexible and efficient opportunities for a sustainable and resilient system infrastructure. Decentralized water reuse technologies can contribute to the sustainability of the system and decrease the dependence on drought constraint water resources. Usually, small systems are not as efficient in their operation as large scale infrastructure systems but taking into account the spatial characteristics of a specific location, optimal locations can be identified that promote the benefits of decentralization. This project aims to reveal the interconnection between cost, energy and water and to understand how decentralization can alleviate the economic and environmental pressure on our conventional infrastructure. 

Partners: San Francisco Public Utilities Commision

Water Governance

Supporting Conflict Resolution and Integrated Water Governance at Peru’s Lake Parón

Where: Cordilera Blanca, Peru

Who: Adam French

What: Lake Parón is the largest glacial lake in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca—the world’s highest tropical mountain range—and a vital water source for agriculture, potable use, and hydropower production during the region’s annual dry season. In 2008, after nearly a decade of unresolved local complaints over U.S.-based Duke Energy's management of the lake, a coalition of local actors evicted the company from the site and occupied its discharge infrastructure. Since 2009, this interdisciplinary research has examined the hydro-social and political-economic dynamics driving this emblematic conflict’s development and persistence. Through ongoing analysis, public outreach, and legal and policy recommendations, my research continues to support the resolution of the conflict and a transition towards integrated and adaptive governance of Lake Parón's hydrologic resources.

Managed Wildfire

Could managed wildfire provide an ecological, hydrological and risk management win-win-win in the Sierra Nevada?

Where: Illilouette Creek Basin - a wilderness area in Yosemite National Park

Who: Sally Thompson, PhD student Gabrielle Boisrame, in collaboration with the Fire Science Laboratory in ESPM (lead by Prof Scott Stephens), other ESPM faculty (Maggi Kelly and John Battles) and the US Forest Service (Brandon Collins).

What:  The Illilouette Creek Basin (ICB) is the subject of a unique experiment in which wildfires that start naturally are allowed to burn without intervention from people (in contrast to the remainder of the Sierra Nevada, where fires are typically extinguished immediately upon detection).  The alleviation of fire suppression in the ICB has lead to dramatic changes in vegetation composition and landscape structure, as meadows expand, dense forested areas shrink, and patch sizes of uniform vegetation types become smaller.  These changes have increased diversity and reduced the risk of catastrophic fire - but what has the effect been on hydrology?  We observe wetland plants growing in areas that were dry forests before the fires, and modeling indicates that the landscape is likely to be using less water and becoming wetter.  We are using a combination of remote sensing, modeling and field studies to explore the large scale consequences of this experiment and to evaluate the potential to scale it up across the Sierra Nevada.

Partners: Funded by the Joint Fire Sciences panel from BLM, and with logistical support and advice provided by Yosemite National Park.

Hydrologic Change

Reconstructing 50 years of dramatic hydrologic change in the Arkavathy Basin, India

Where: Arkavathy River Basin, adjacent to Bengaluru (Bangalore), Karnataka, India

Who: Sally Thompson, PhD student Gopal Penny, in collaboration with Prof Joshua Peschel (Civil Engineering, UIUC) and student Sierra Young (Civil Engineering, UIUC), and Dr. Veena Srinivasan (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bengaluru, India), with support from Prof Iryna Dronova (College of Environmental Design, Berkeley).

What: Since 1970, flows in the Arkavathy River, once a major water supply for the growing city of Bangalore, have declined by nearly 80%.  The local policy response to this evident hydrologic change has been uncoordinated, with different agencies undertaking vastly different, and frequently conflicting actions.  Working with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, we are using a combination of satellite records, in-situ monitoring and modeling approaches to reconstruct the changes that have occurred in the basin since 1970, and to attribute the losses in surface water flows to specific causes.  In summer 2015, we collaborated with UIUC to bring aerial sensing platforms (aka drones!) into the watershed to begin a program of rapid bathymetric scanning of rainwater harvesting structures (tanks), which will let us make our historical analyses of the status of water in these tanks more quantitative and informative. 

Partners: Supported by a "Catalyzing New International Collaborations" (CNIC) grant from NSF

WASH Benefits

Cluster-randomised controlled trials of individual and combined water, sanitation, hygiene and nutritional interventions in rural Bangladesh and Kenya: the WASH Benefits study

Where: Rural Bangladesh and Rural Kenya

Who: Principal Investigator: John M. Colford, Jr., MD PhD; UC Berkeley Co-Investigators: Alan E. Hubbard, PhD, Lia H. Fernald, PhD, Benjamin F. Arnold, PhD, Jade Benjamin-Chung, PhD, Ayse Ercumen, PhD, Audrie Lin, PhD, Patricia Kariger, PhD

What: Enteric infections are common during the first years of life in low-income countries and contribute to growth faltering with long-term impairment of health and development. Water quality, sanitation, handwashing and nutritional interventions can independently reduce enteric infections and growth faltering. There is little evidence that directly compares the effects of these individual and combined interventions on diarrhoea and growth when delivered to infants and young children. The objective of the WASH Benefits study is to help fill this knowledge gap.

Methods: WASH Benefits includes two cluster-randomised trials to assess improvements in water quality, sanitation, handwashing and child nutrition—alone and in combination—to rural households with pregnant women in Kenya and Bangladesh. Geographically matched clusters (groups of household compounds in Bangladesh and villages in Kenya) will be randomised to one of six intervention arms or control. Intervention arms include water quality, sanitation, handwashing, nutrition, combined water+sanitation+handwashing (WSH) and WSH +nutrition. The studies will enrol newborn children (N=5760 in Bangladesh and N=8000 in Kenya) and measure outcomes at 12 and 24 months after intervention delivery. Primary outcomes include child length-for-age Z-scores and caregiver-reported diarrhoea. Secondary outcomes include stunting prevalence, markers of environmental enteropathy and child development scores (verbal, motor and personal/ social). We will estimate unadjusted and adjusted intention-to-treat effects using semiparametric estimators and permutation tests.

Partners: University of California, Davis, Stanford University, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Innovations for Poverty Action, Kenya (IPAK), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Wagner College, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Surfer Health Study

Health risks associated with ocean exposure and fecal indicator bacteria following rainstorms: a longitudinal cohort study of surfers in San Diego, California

Where: San Diego, CA

Who: Principal Investigator: John M. Colford, Jr., MD PhD, Lead Investigator: Benjamin F. Arnold, PhD, UC Berkeley Co-Investigators: Jade Benjamin-Chung, PhD, Ayse Ercumen, PhD, and Other Co-Investigators: Kenneth Schiff, MA (SCCWRP), John Griffith, PhD (SCCWRP), Joshua Steele, PhD (SCCWRP), Stephen B. Weisberg, PhD (SCCWRP)

What: Fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) such as Enterococcus are commonly used for monitoring water quality at marine recreational beaches.  Wet weather is particularly problematic for virtually all beach managers.  Stormwater runoff has consistently high concentrations of FIB.  Because of the dynamic nature of rainfall, runoff, and source locations, reducing FIB concentrations in stormwater discharges to attain existing water quality objectives is an extremely difficult and expensive proposition.  Moreover, beach managers are uncertain if human pathogens are present in stormwater runoff, and whether health risks increase immediately following rainstorms.

Methods: To help fill this knowledge gap, we are conducting a longitudinal cohort study among surfers in San Diego during the 2014 and 2015 winter seasons.  We enrol surfers because they are the most abundant group of ocean users in the winter when rainstorms prevail in California.  The purpose of this study is to evaluate the risk of illness after ocean exposure following rainstorms. This study will answer three main questions: (1) Is ocean exposure associated with increased gastrointestinal illness rates among surfers?  (2) Are gastrointestinal illness rates higher following ocean exposure after wet weather events compared to ocean exposure during dry weather? (3) What is the association between levels of Enterococcus and gastrointestinal illness during the winter months and in the days immediately following rainstorms? A parallel effort led by other members of our team will conduct a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) analysis using the study data.

Partners: Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, Surfrider Foundation

Sanitation and Hygeine

Spillover Effects of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Interventions on Child Health

Where: Rural Bangladesh

Who: Principal Investigator: John M. Colford, Jr., MD PhD, Study lead: Jade Benjamin-Chung, PhD MPH, UCB Co-Investigators: Benjamin F. Arnold, PhD, Alan Hubbard, PhD, Other Co-Investigators: Stephen P. Luby, MD (Stanford University), Leanne Unicomb, PhD (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh), Mahbubur Rahman, MBBS (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh)

What: Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions may affect not only those who receive them but also those who are geographically proximate or connected socially to those receiving the intervention. Most studies that have empirically measured such “spillover effects” of child health interventions have focused on vaccines and deworming, but no studies have measured spillovers from WASH interventions. This study measures spillovers of a combined WASH intervention in an existing trial: the WASH Benefits trial ( Investigators hypothesize that children who live in close proximity to compounds that receive a combined sanitation, handwashing, and water treatment intervention--compared to children who live in close proximity to control compounds (no intervention)--will have: 1) lower prevalence of diarrhea, 2) lower prevalence and intensity of infection of soil transmitted helminths, and 3) lower prevalence of respiratory illness. Further information is available at

Partners: Stanford University, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health

Wireless Sensor Networks

American River Hydrologic Observatory 

Where: Upper American River basin, CA

Who: Profs. Steven Glaser, UCB, Roger Bales, UCM, and Martha Conklin, UCM

What: We have set up fourteen large wireless sensor networks to measure hydrologic parameters over physiographical representative regions of the snow-dominated portion of the river basin.  This is by far the largest wireless sensor network in the world.  Each network covers about a 1 km2 area and consists of about 45 elements.  We measure snow depth, temperature humidity soil moisture and temperature, and solar radiation in real time at ten locations per site, as opposed to the traditional once-a-month snow course. 

Partners: National Science Foundation, Placer County Water Agency

Wireless Sensor Networks

Feather River Hydrologic Observatory

Who: East Branch of the North Fork of the Feather River, CA

Where: Profs. Steven Glaser, UCB, Roger Bales, UCM, and Martha Conklin, UCM

What: We have a project to set up four large wireless sensor networks to measure snow depth, temperature humidity soil moisture and temperature, and solar radiation in real time.  This new type of data will then be integrated into water production models.  The final product will be the integration of the real time, detailed, data into the PRMS model PG&E and DWR are using.  We will then compute the rate of return of the new system compared to the present one.

Partners: California Energy Commission, California Department of Water Resources, Pacific Gas and electric

Wireless Sensor Networks

Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

Where: Upper King’s River basin, CA

Who: Profs. Steven Glaser, UCB, Roger Bales, UCM, and Martha Conklin, UCM

What: As part of the multi-PI SSCZO, we have installed a 62-node wireless sensor network to measure snow depth, temperature humidity soil moisture and temperature, and solar radiation in real time.  This network has been operating for approximately six years.  Amongst other observations we have observed the drying of the soil profile due to the drought and have found soil temperature to be the controlling variable.

Partners: National Science Foundation, US Forest Service

International Water Projects

Information and Intermittent Water: An Impact Evaluation in Bangalore, India

Where: Bangalore, India

Who: Tanu Kumar, Alison Post, Isha Ray

What: Worldwide, 400 million people rely on intermittent water, often receiving services only a few days a week for a few hours. While addressing the underlying causes of water intermittency and unpredictability tends to be very costly, low-cost informational interventions can potentially help households to cope with service unpredictability. Alleviating coping costs may also change the way in which citizens relate to their local governments. Through a cluster-randomized experiment involving 3000 households in Bangalore, we will evaluate a text-message based notification scheme providing households with advance warning of the timing of water services and supply cancellations provided by the social enterprise NextDrop. We assess whether the notification system reduces: a) the time spent waiting for water; b) expenditures on substitutes for piped water services; and c) stress levels on account of uncertain and irregular deliveries and uncertainty. We also examine if, and how, the receipt of real-time information changes how citizens “see the state,” whom they hold responsible for service quality and problems, and whom they approach about service concerns.

Partners: NextDrop, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the Public Affairs Foundation  


The role of flow and hydrologic connectivity in Everglades ecosystem processes

Where: Everglades, Florida
Who: Laurel Larsen, Aaron Hurst (formerly UC Berkeley, now University of Colorado), Jud Harvey (USGS), Jay Choi (USGS), Colin Saunders (South Florida Water Management District), Sue Newman (South Florida Water Management District)
What: After decades of hydrologic alteration of the Everglades (decreased water levels and curtailed flows), we are evaluating the impacts of flow restoration to a portion of the Everglades landscape. Over three experimental flow releases, which took place in three sequential years, we made measurements of sediment and nutrient redistribution to determine the role of flow in maintaining landscape structure and in nutrient cycling. The photo depicts an airboat at a research platform that spans a transition between the open-water slough environment and a densely vegetated ridge.
Partners: US Geological Survey, South Florida Water Management District, US Army Corps of Engineers
Stream Restoration

Effects of stream restoration on fine sediment and carbon dynamics

Where: Big Spring Run, Lancaster, PA
Who:  Laurel Larsen, Dorothy Merritts (Franklin & Marshall College), Robert Walter (Franklin & Marshall College), Danielle Watts (UC Berkeley), Aayush Khurana (UC Berkeley), Jessica Anderson (UC Berkeley)
What: This project evaluates floodplain biogeomorphic changes following a stream restoration experiment that involved removal of post-Colonial legacy sediment from the stream's floodplain and reestablishment of a wet meadow environment. In the photograph, we are measuring physical characteristics of vegetation and associated sediment and flow characteristics to understand the processes driving the evolution of floodplain geomorphology and the distinct roles of different vegetation communities in these processes.
Partners: Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
Non-Traditional Waters

Biogeochemical Approaches for Managing of Non-Traditional Waters

Where: This project is located in USA and China

Who: William Stringfellow, Nicolas Spycher, Mary Kay Camarillo

What: Non-traditional waters can contain complex mixtures of dissolved ions, natural organic matter including hydrocarbons, and anthropogenic chemicals such as biocides and surfactants, which are widely used in industry and household products. The reuse of non-traditional waters requires a fundamental understanding of water geochemistry, so that appropriate multi-stage processes can be designed and negative outcomes such as membrane fouling can be avoided. The objective of this effort is to develop protocols and tools that will allow dynamic optimization of treatment trains to achieve specific water quality targets from unconventional source-water. Biogeochemical characterization and modeling will be combined in the context of engineering optimization to provide decision-support tools for operation of multi-component treatment trains.

Partners: This is a joint project between LBNL, UC Berkeley, and the Chinese Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration & Development


Groundwater Recharge Using Active Almond Orchards: Characterization of Vadose Zone Effects on Water Quality

Where: This project is located in the Central Valley of California

Who: William Stringfellow, Peter Nico, Greg Newman, Helen Dahlke (UC Davis)

What: Sustainable groundwater and surface water management is a priority for all growers in the Central Valley of California, including almond growers. One potential approach to sustainable water management is the use of “groundwater banking” where excess surface water is applied to land in the winter, infiltrated, and stored in local groundwater aquifers for reuse during the summer irrigation season. In this study, we are investigating how water applied to almond orchards infiltrates past the root zone and enters the aquifer for storage. We are examining how the quality of the water may change between the application on the field and the eventual recovery of the banked water at local wells.

Partners: This is a joint project between LBNL, UC Davis, and the Almond Board of California.