Five Key Lessons

Photo of a winding river.

ESPM 150/290: The UC Water Academy

ESPM Cooperative Extension specialist Ted Grantham is one of a trio of scientists leading the UC Water Academy, an experiential course supported by the UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative. Launched in 2017 and co-taught by UC Merced professor Josh Viers and UC Davis hydrologist Sarah Yarnell, the course invites undergraduate and graduate students from all the UC campuses for a semester of readings and online discussions followed by a tour of California’s water—from dams to the delta, pipelines to planted fields, irrigation ditches to river rapids. Unfiltered perspectives are shared by farmers, tribal members, governmental scientists, and environmental leaders. Here are five lessons that students have taken away from the course.

  1. Get wet. Guided engagement in active experiences and direct personal interactions with members of the community promote deeper thinking about the roles and values of water across environments.
  2. Water is a connector, not a sector. Solutions to California’s water challenges lie in connecting traditionally isolated water sectors. Agencies that regulate surface water have historically had limited authority over groundwater, even though water flows between the surface and the ground.
  3. Find the source. Few Californians are aware of the path that water takes to reach their taps. Many rely on water whose journey begins hundreds of miles away. Others use water sourced from ancient aquifers.
  4. Know where it flows. Similarly, too few Californians give a second thought to where their water goes after being used. Management of “wastewater” has become a new frontier.
  5. Broaden the boat. Bringing disadvantaged communities and other previously excluded voices to the conversation is critical for realizing a sustainable and just water future. We’re all floating down this river together.