Melissa Rohde & Kirk Klausemyer
The Nature Conservancy
Groundwater supports important habitats, including perennial rivers and riparian forests throughout California. Groundwater provides a reliable source of water for these Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs), which support native fish, birds, and other wildlife. Groundwater is particularly important in California since it supplies an additional source of water during the dry summer months and periods of drought. The drought and unsustainable pumping practices have, in some areas, lowered groundwater levels causing undesirable results to ecosystems. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires local agencies to avoid undesirable results in the future, but the location and vulnerabilities of the ecosystems that depend on groundwater and interconnected surface water is often poorly understood.
In response to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, The Nature Conservancy has developed a high-resolution statewide map that identifies potential GDEs. In addition, the Conservancy has developed a step-by-step technical guide for GSAs on how to use local hydrologic knowledge to further identify whether GDEs exist within a basin and need consideration when preparing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). The GDE map and guidance framework have been developed and tested with various stakeholders, including both state and local water agencies throughout California. This on-the-ground approach has incorporated the perspective of local water managers and has been refined using case-study examples. The GDE map and guidance framework is intended to offer a systematic and defensible approach to: 1) identify and evaluate where GDEs may exist, and 2) assess whether GDEs are vulnerable to basin management activities and require consideration when setting minimum thresholds and measurable objectives to critical parameters.
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Melissa Rohde Melissa provides scientific leadership to The Nature Conservancy’s Groundwater Program using her expertise in biology, hydrology, and water policy to advance sustainable groundwater management. Her research focuses on understanding how Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems function and what conditions are necessary to maintain ecosystem health. Her scientific research is being used to advise policy and management of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.
Prior to working at The Nature Conservancy, Melissa conducted research with the Water in the West program at Stanford University on the costs and benefits associated with groundwater recharge and storage projects in California. She has more than 10 years of international research experience ranging across the fields of paleoclimatology, biogeochemistry, and hydrogeology. Melissa has degrees in MSc Environmental Engineering & Science from Stanford University, MSc Water Science, Policy & Management from Oxford University, and BSc in Biology & Oceanography from the University of British Columbia. You can follow Melissa’s musings on water, climate change, and the environment on her blog: www.reflectionsonwater.org
Kirk Klausmeyer Kirk Klausmeyer is the Senior Spatial Data Scientist for the Nature Conservancy in the California Program. During his 11 years at the Conservancy, Kirk has interpreted data and developed visual tools to represent California’s most pressing environmental challenges including the impact of drought on river flows, mapping important rivers that supply drinking water, cataloging observations of freshwater biodiversity statewide, and analyzing climate change impacts and the resiliency of natural systems to change. Kirk has authored/co-authored 13 publications in peer-reviewed journals while working at the Conservancy. Kirk graduated Suma Cum Laude with a B.A. in environmental studies and economics from Dartmouth College and has an M.A. in planning from UC Berkeley.
Thomas Harter, Ph.D., received a B.S. in hydrology from the Universities of Freiburg, Germany and a M.S. in hydrology from the University of Stuttgart, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in hydrology (with emphasis on subsurface hydrology) at the University of Arizona. In 1995, he joined the faculty at the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California, Davis. His research focuses on nonpoint-source pollution of groundwater, groundwater resources evaluation under uncertainty, groundwater modeling, and subsurface contaminant transport. Dr. Harter's research group has done extensive modeling, laboratory, and field work to evaluate the impacts of agriculture and human activity on groundwater flow and contaminant transport in complex aquifer and soil systems; and to improve management of groundwater resources for agricultural production. In 2007, Dr. Harter's cooperative extension program received the Kevin J. Neese Award from the California Groundwater Resources Association. The award was given in recognition of the program's efforts to better understand groundwater quality issues related to dairy activities and its involvement in improving management practices on dairies.