Summer 2017 California Project WET Gazette
Volume XXll, Issue IIl
Capture, Store & Release
Water is flowing forth from the Sierra Nevada, as a record setting snowpack begins to melt into a record setting flow of liquid propelled downhill by gravity. The U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch map of California is loaded with stream gages reporting near-flood levels on many of the state’s rivers and hundreds of cubic feet per second of water flowing into the Central Valley, Nevada and the lakes and valleys of the Eastern Sierra. How to better capture, store and release more of this water from abundant storm years has been a big topic of discussion among California water managers and water user groups over our past decade of multi-year droughts, punctuated by a great deluge of precipitation in a single water year.
This pattern of drought and flood is consistent with the longer terms trends of California climate change history, but expected to become more extreme with a current change in climate that is supercharged by the sharp increase of heat trapping gasses in our atmosphere over the past 300 years – i.e., the most severe drought in recorded history followed by the most extreme levels of precipitation we’ve recorded are fully in line with climate change predictions – and are just the tip of the iceberg of what the evidence and climate models suggests is to come. Evidence the California Department of Water Resources climate change team welcomes K – 12 educators to come learn about and discuss from water climate scientists, and hear how the data is being applied to mitigate and adapt our California water management systems to the expected changes in upcoming Project WET workshops in Bishop, Merced and Santa Maria this Summer and Fall.
I’m sure news of the crisis related to the spillway at Oroville Dam made many readers aware that drought-depleted reservoirs around the state were filling to capacity before winter was half over this year, yet there has been surprise and outrage from some fellow citizens upon learning reservoirs along the Sierra front have released great volumes of water since and were below capacity in early May. It is a reflection of the dual purpose society places on our dam and reservoir systems – flood control for those living immediately downstream and storage of as much water as possible to supply users of that water through the long, dry summer. Two diametrically opposite roles if one looks at the extremes – citizens who would like to see maximum flood protection versus those advocating for maximum water storage at all times.
The drawdown of water was in anticipation of capturing the water of high elevation streams that will be swollen with snowmelt this spring and many of the reservoirs will likely be full or near capacity by the time one is reading this article in mid-June. A deep snowpack spanning the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades has been a key phenomenon in our Mediterranean climate allowing our dam and reservoir managers to balance the dual roles of flood control to protect people living downstream and water storage. Yet, a changing climate threatens to upset this balance – less snowpack and greater demand for water during extended periods of drought, punctuated by a great deluge of precipitation of all forms in a single water year.
The title of a Project WET Guide 1.0 activity ‘Capture, Store and Release’ is right on target with the variety of options being discussed and argued among water managers and user groups on how to capture and store more of whatever amount of water may fall on the state in a future of greatly reduced Sierra snowpack, more frequent multi-year droughts and higher average temperatures. The ‘Capture, Store and Release’ activity has students simulating how natural systems like wetlands, meadows, floodplains and riparian areas act like sponges to capture, store and release water.
Unfortunately, only those who still have an original Project WET Guide have access to the activity, as much of the activity was modified and incorporated into the more urban, human engineering focused ‘Storm Water’ (p: 395) activity in Guide 2.0. But the gist is still the same – sponges in a pan represent areas in our watersheds that act to capture, store and release water. Students study and measure how slope, the size of the ‘wetland,’ underlying material and human alterations of the system affects the ability of the ‘wetland’ system to capture, store and release water into nearby streams, groundwater aquifers or directed into human engineered water systems. ‘Storm Water’ introduces students to human-engineered solutions to capture storm water in our urban environments, and both activities challenge students to consider benefits beyond just the capture of water – i.e., habitat, water conservation, water quality, aesthetics, etc. The Earth systems approach of the older activity and human- engineered approach of the newer activity are both on the menu of options to increase the resiliency of California water systems in a changing climate – and educators can get up close and personal and gain a deeper knowledge of a number of these systems during the Floodplain Ecology Institutes in Stockton, Fresno, West Sacramento or Chico this summer.
Land management is another key area in the menu of strategies to counter the impacts of climate change in California. Research is being conducted on the relationship between water retention and water yield as the result of different land uses and management practices – the very subject of the Project WET activity ‘Color Me a Watershed’ (p: 239) – and how this research integrates with research ranging from the role of fire, snowpack retention and biodiversity to enhance practices that promote greater resiliency to a changing climate within watersheds. A Map D already exists to extend ‘Color Me a Watershed’ and challenge students to consider the hydrological impacts of wildfire within a watershed, but one could easily use the activity for a base to consider and investigate how each land use option and potential management practices for each may interplay with the movement of wildfire, biological diversity and potential to influence the build up and retention of snowpack. Keep in mind, investigating variables that influence the rate of snowpack melt is the subject of the Project WET activity ‘Snow and Tell’ (p: 387). The role of forest management, current research into forest practices and land use patterns within forested watersheds and a deeper understanding of forest ecosystems can be experienced first-hand by attending a Forestry Institute for Teachers.
Of course, while all of these are viable options and many are already being implemented around the state to promote resiliency to more extreme weather swings in a changing climate, none attack the monster in the room that some refuse to acknowledge – the choice and frequency of use of fuels burned for our power, heat and transportation – nor are most actions a student can take. However, participants in the I2SEA Project – a partnership between Stanford University, University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs and University of Gothenburg in Sweden – are working on climate change education materials identifying age appropriate actions students can take. In fact, the I2SEA Project is working on materials specifically for Middle school students and is seeking Middle school teachers for a three-day institute this September that will ‘follow the water’ from Suisun Marsh to the Pacific, while laying out a course of study for the Middle school classroom that will highlight the relevant connections between inland and ocean climate actions and impacts Middle school students demand.
I hope this article may spark some travel and professional development ideas for those ready for adventure. You’ll find additional trainings and a full list of upcoming Project WET workshops in the ‘Professional Development Opportunities’ listed in this Gazette. For more in-depth information on the topic and current discussion on how better to capture, store and release water in California, please visit the ‘Websites of Interest’. For those ready for a break, checkout the lost of potential ‘Events’ to enjoy over the summer or get a jump on summer or fall ‘Grant, Scholarships and Student Contest’ opportunities. Hope you have a wonderful summer!
WEBSITES OF INTEREST
The uniquely wet winter of 2016-2017 has highlighted a key issue surrounding our surface water and groundwater storage infrastructure: We could have stored this abundant water, not in new reservoirs, but right under our feet. The cycles of drought and flood will continue in California; in order to survive the droughts we have to move winter precipitation to groundwater storage in greater quantity and more efficiently.
The UC WATER Security and Sustainability Research Initiative is focused on strategic research to build the knowledge base for better water resources management. We apply innovative science, technology, and implementation strategy to surface and ground water management. In 2015, the University of California linked together multiple campuses and established UC Water. We have grown to over 50 researchers who address California’s three stores of water (video): snow, reservoirs, and groundwater aquifers. We employ an interdisciplinary approach: information, institutions and infrastructure.
There are few places as majestic as a mountain meadow, and few landscapes that safeguard our rivers headwaters as well as a healthy meadow. Healthy meadows provide many of the outstanding natural benefits that floodplains do: Meadows store spring floodwaters and release cool flows in late summer; Grasses and soil filter out sediment and pollutants; and Flowers and plants provide high-quality forage and provide habitat for rare and threatened species. Private ranchers, foundations, utilities, government agencies, conservation groups and others are all investing in meadow restoration as it becomes clear what a healthy meadow can provide.
As California ponders its long-term water supply challenges, one solution getting increased attention is Sierra Nevada meadow restoration. Those high-mountain meadows historically acted as sponges, capturing spring snowmelt to recharge groundwater and provide vital wildlife habitat, then discharging it slowly in late summer and fall to keep streams flowing until winter storms returned.
Turning meadow restoration into cleaner air is the goal of researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno. The Soil Science Laboratory at the University recently partnered with the Earthwatch Institute, an international citizen science research organization, to better understand how restoration and plant communities relate to the soil carbon in Sierra Nevada mountain meadows.
Functioning montane meadows offer abundant ecosystem services including natural water filtration and groundwater storage. As groundwater recharge dwindles during the dry California summer months, groundwater storage from mountain meadows is slowly released into streams. The South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) volunteers have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork with the River Science team at SYRCL and record pressure transducer data at each station at Loney Meadow in the Tahoe National Forest. SYRCL’s groundwater monitoring data will help us determine proper restoration techniques and prioritization for degraded meadows.
Earth Watch: Restoring Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Join research teams in the Sierra Nevada to study this important ecosystem and understand how changes are impacting the landscape. This information will help scientists to assess the vulnerability of these meadows to a changing climate. You will also work with local organizations, including the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), the Tahoe National Forest, and others to actively restore these meadows in an effort to protect this important water system.
Approximately two-thirds of California’s water—including drinking water for 23 million people—originates in the Sierra Nevada as snow and rain. A number of interrelated factors, including historic land management practices, climate change, drought, and a growing population are threatening the capacity of the Sierra Nevada to meet current and future demands for water. This The Nature Conservancy report examines the extent to which investing in forest and meadow restoration could increase water supply and improve the timing of water availability.
Groundwater recharge, flood protection and wildlife habitat all depend on floodplains. Now there’s a new movement underway in California to revive them in order to ease California’s dramatic swings between drought and flood. When rivers swell, floodplains absorb the excess flow, protecting cities built along rivers, recharging groundwater and providing vital aquatic habitat – all at the same time. When drought swings back, we can pump out the groundwater to serve farms and neighborhoods. Now a new effort is building to reunite rivers with their floodplains, a movement that could take the sting out of both drought and flooding.
Roughly half of the groundwater basins in California’s Central Valley are critically over-drafted. Though groundwater levels in the Cosumnes basin have also appreciably declined since the 1950s, cutting edge research at the Cosumnes River Preserve has shown that floodplain restoration can substantially recharge groundwater as well as provide habitat and improve fish migration.
Dale Hall, the Chief Executive Officer of Ducks Unlimited and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, was in the Sacramento Valley this week, sharing his progressive thoughts on the wise use of the floodplain. His remarks were centered on water and he focused on a forward-looking approach where “tailored functional flows and non-flow measures serve multiple benefits (birds, fish and farms) and improve the health of the Delta, without pitting environmentally beneficial uses of water against one another.”
CalTrout’s work in the Central Valley is addressing California’s defining environmental challenge: How do we reconcile ecosystem function with human needs in the face of a changing climate? Operating at the nexus of water supply, flood protection, agriculture, and fish and wildlife conservation, the Managed Agricultural Habitat project is laying the scientific and political groundwork for precedent-setting water solutions with multiple benefits for both fish and people. The work demonstrates that California can have both its fish and its farms.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The California Project WET program and our sponsors are eager to assist in supporting local professional development and water education outreach efforts. Our volunteer network of workshop Facilitators has been hard at work designing and organizing workshops for the upcoming season, including Project WET workshops highlighting the role of water in gardens, water conservation, groundwater management, aquatic ecosystems, agriculture, human history and the Next Generation Science Standards
Climate change is having a profound impact on California water resources, as evidenced by changes in snowpack, sea level and river flows. These specialized Project WET workshops provide an opportunity for new and veteran Project WET educators to interact with California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Climate Change Scientists for a day of learning about the basics of weather and climate science, how DWR and other California organizations at all levels are applying this science to safeguard California water resources – and how Project WET activities can help you integrate climate science concepts and skills back in the classroom – Join us in Bishop, Merced or Santa Maria!
Vast riparian forests, wetlands, vernal pools and grasslands loaded with once sprawled across a far more biologically diverse Central Valley that sprung from the seasonal ebb and flow of flood waters swelling the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and all their tributaries, from Red Bluff and Fresno to converge on the Delta. Come learn about issues plaguing California’s aging flood and water conveyance systems and the floodplain restoration can play in not only safeguarding our homes and business from flooding, but also providing other ecosystem services ranging from increased biological diversity to improving water quality – Join us in Stockton, Fresno, West Sacramento or Chico this summer!
Join the Central Valley Science Project this June 14, 2017 to June 17, 2017 Receive a $1000 stipend upon completion of this summer institute and course work. This NSF funded institute is a systems approach to solving watershed issues through modeling and hands-on activities for middle and high school students. On line support course will take place through the school year, as will one additional day. Receive a set of Bluetooth watershed trackers and NGSS curriculum for your classroom. For information contact Dr. Jerry Valadez.
Explore the Sierra Nevada with scientists and K-12 educators during this 4-day investigation – July 6-9, 2017 - into the water cycle and the impacts of drought and changing water regimes on biodiversity. Educators will learn how to analyze the impacts of drought on biodiversity and how to engage in the scientific practices of field investigation and data analysis. They will leave with an NGSS-aligned unit created with their peers. Registration fees: $499 individual, $449 each with 2 or more from your district or credential program.
Take this workshop on its own or use it to go deeper into your training from the Sierra Institute. Spend three days – July 9-12, 2017 – hiking, camping, and learning about the effects of climate and water on three distinct habitats in Yosemite National Park. Hone your observation skills, apply these lessons to your NGSS-aligned curriculum, and learn how to teach students to become better observers and scientists. Fees: $249, includes meals and campsite (3 days, 4 nights).
Using curriculum to create and use wildlife habitat at your school! Enjoy three days of hands-on lessons to help teach common core and NGSS, explore native plants and wildlife, network with teachers and natural resource professionals and become eligible for funding opportunities through GreenWorks Grants and the Schoolyard Habitat Program. Participants will also take home the PLT PreK-8 guide, the USFWS’s step by step guide to creating schoolyard habitat projects and other teaching materials and resources. Join us this June 27 -29 at beautiful Effie Yeaw Nature Center along the American River in Carmichael, CA by contacting Karleen Vollherbst,
CALIFORNIA MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS! Join the Stanford-based I2SEA Project and partners September 14-16 as we connect the far reaches of the greater San Francisco Bay watershed to the Sea! Our 3-day institute will offer a blend of field investigations, classroom activities and group discussions, and all participants will leave with an array of classroom-ready watershed and climate resources. We will explore three terrestrial ecosystems within the greater San Francisco Bay-Delta and Pacific Coast watersheds. A $30 registration fee will be refunded upon completion of the training as well as reimbursement for substitute teacher pay, mileage and a $200 stipend to complete of a curriculum project. For questions on the training, please contact Jason Hodin, University of Washington, Friday Harbor Labs to reserve your spot.
Through the use of watershed models and remote sensing tools, Secondary educators participating in these workshops will explore the role of water in feedback mechanisms connecting inland watersheds from summit to sea. In addition to Project WET, participants will be among the first to be introduced to California Coastal Voices – the California Coastal Commission’s newest curricular resource for Secondary teachers – and built from the ground up based on California’s Next Generation Science and Common Core Standards with a strong focus on environmental literacy and project-based learning. Keep an eye out on this page for dates and registration links to join us this Fall in Monterey, Orange or San Diego Counties!
The California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) is a communication network supporting the environmental literacy of California’s students by providing teachers with access to high quality environmental education resources. In addition to communicating news and information about environmental education, grants and an online calendar of events, CREEC will soon offer a searchable database of standards-based programs, field trips, on-line resources and professional development opportunities from environmental education providers across the state!
The EEI Curriculum is 85 K-12 grade units that teaches standards through an environmental lens, including understanding resources, conservation, where our food, energy, and water come from, and complicated decision-making processes related to climate change, green chemistry and use of our public lands. California examples make learning relevant and stimulate student involvement with the world around them. Click here to see a list of correlating Project WET activities to use with individual EEI units!
June 3 –June 11, 2017: California Invasive Species Action Week
The goals of the California Invasive Species Action Week (CISAW) are to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and promote public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources. Help us celebrate California’s Invasive Species Action Week, by volunteering to take action to help stop the spread of invasive species, Find an event near you by visiting our list of 2017 Schedule of Events! Don’t forget to check out the Project WET activity ‘Invaders’ (p: 263)!
July 1, 2017: California Free Fishing Day
Have you ever felt the excitement of watching your bobber suddenly jiggle, then dive out of sight? Or feeling the tap-tap-tap of a bass as it tastes the worm on the end of your line? Or having a salmon practically tear the rod out of your hands as it smashes your lure? What’s that? If you are new to the sport of fishing, CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year.
July 14-15, 2017: California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference
Join us in Visalia the heart of California Agriculture as we Grow our Future. Teachers and volunteers — come and learn about the importance of educating our youth about food and fiber through all subject areas. Agriculture is everywhere and in everything we do! The $200 registration includes all meals and trips. Conference registration is open – Be a part of the experience!
August 25, 2017: National Park Service Birthday
Celebrate ‘America’s Best Idea’ by visiting your National Parks – FOR FREE! The National Park Service just turned 100 years old! Celebrate the start of our second century by visiting a park in 2017. During ten days of the year, all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone.
September 1, 2017: California Free Fishing Day
Here is another opportunity! Some CDFW Regions offer a Fishing in the City program where you can go fishing in the middle of major metropolitan areas perhaps just a few blocks from your home. Please visit our website for more information.
September 16, 2017: California Coastal Cleanup Day
California Coastal Cleanup Day, is the State’s largest annual volunteer event. Vast amounts of plastic debris litter the world’s oceans causing all manner of harm, and most of this debris comes from land. Trash travels via inland waterways, storm drains, sewers, on the wind and eventually ends up on the coast. Our beaches are collecting spots for trash from city streets and highways.In 2015, more than 68,000 volunteers removed nearly 1,143,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from California’s beaches, lakes and waterways. Find out how you and your class can join the effort to protect our coasts and waterways!
September 16 – October 8, 2017: COASTWEEKS 2017
COASTWEEKS is an annual celebration of our coastal and water resources. We encourage events from throughout the state, not just along the coast. Click here if you’d like to publicize your coast- or water-related event(s) in the COASTWEEKS calendar.This celebration is a great way to expand your outreach and participate in nation-wide efforts to encourage appreciation and preservation of our coast and inland waterways.
September 30, 2017: National Public Lands Day
National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States. Bring your family, friends, students, or coworkers to spend the day outdoors giving back to your community by pulling invasive species, maintaining trails, picking up trash, and more. Your work will help ensure our public lands continue to be beautiful places for all to enjoy. Click here for more information!
September 30, 2017: Free Entrance Days in the National Parks
Celebrate National Public Lands Day with free entrance to a local National Park! Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise. Click here to learn about discounts and special offers from park partners.
October 8 – 14, 2017: Earth Science Week 2017
Take part in Earth Science Week 2017! “Earth and Human Activity” is the 2017 theme to engage young people in exploring the relationship between human activity and the geosphere (earth), hydrosphere (water), biosphere (life) and atmosphere (air).The theme promotes public understanding and stewardship the planet, especially in terms of the ways people affect and are affected by Earth systems. To mark the occasion of the 20th annual Earth Science Week, we will be launching a slate of new initiatives, materials, and other offerings for participants throughout the year.
October 13-15, 2017: California Science Education Conference
Attendees enjoy access to over 150 90-minute workshops —providing you the time needed to dive deeper into topics; keynote speakers sure to inspire and inform; and a half dozen focus speakers lecturing on topics at the cutting edge of STEM education. No other event will bring together this many California science educators in one location large enough to offer the diversity of programming educators need, but also small enough to create an environment allowing for connections to be made, inspirations to be had and moments to be shared. Click here to register!
GRANTS, SCHOLARSHIPS & STUDENT CONTESTS
Watershed Stewardship and Education Grant – Deadline: July 1, 2017
The Sacramento County Stormwater Quality Program is offering grants of up to $2,500 per recipient to support creative projects that will inspire people to keep our waterways clean. Teachers, neighborhood groups, volunteer groups, environmental organizations and other nonprofit associations are encouraged to submit their project ideas for streams, and riparian corridors within the unincorporated urban areas of Sacramento County. For more information, you can review the application and eligibility requirements at: www.waterresources.saccounty.netlstormwater
Toshiba America Foundation Grant – Deadline: August 1, 2017
Wanted: Classroom Innovators working with Grades 6 – 12! Toshiba America Foundation seeks applications from teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students. Grant requests for $5,000 or more are accepted and reviewed annually on this date and we only accept on-line applications. Applications must be for project based learning and we requests solely for computers are not even considered. FYI – Grant requests for $5,000 or less are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the calendar year.
Target Field Trip Grants – Deadline: October 1, 2017
Some of the best learning opportunities happen outside the classroom, but its become increasingly difficult for schools to fund learning opportunities outside the classroom. We launched Field Trip Grants in 2007 and have made it possible for millions of students to go on a field trip. Target stores award Field Trip Grants to K-12 schools nationwide. Each grant is valued up to $700. We accept grant applications between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1.
Toshiba America Foundation Grant – Deadline: October 1, 2017
Do you have an innovative idea for improving math or science instruction in your K – 5 classroom? Is your idea project based learning with measurable outcomes? K-5 grade teachers are invited to apply on-line for a $1,000 Toshiba America Foundation grant to help bring an innovative hands-on project into their own classroom. We only accept applications on-line to support project based learning. Our goal is to help elementary teachers bring their best new teaching ideas to life!
Earth Science Week: Photo Contest - Deadline: October 13, 2017
Photograph should focus on the topic “Earth and Human Activity Here.” Humans, individually and in groups, interact with the planet’s natural systems in many way. These natural systems include the geosphere (land), hydrosphere (water), atmosphere (air), and biosphere (living things). With a camera, you can capture evidence of some ways people affect, or are affected by, Earth systems around your home, neighborhood, school, workplace, or local public spaces. In a photo, show human interaction with natural systems where you are.
Earth Science Week: Visual Arts Contest - Deadline: October 13, 2017
Student artwork should focus on the topic “People and the Planet.” Earth science is the study of “Earth systems” — our planet’s land, water, air, and living things. The natural world is part of many things that people do. Think of where our food, clothes, and homes come from. Think of the ways we work and play. Think of the forces that shape our weather, our travels, our habits, and all the things we can (and cannot) do. Can you create a picture that shows how human activities shape, and are shaped by, Earth systems? Use artwork to show “people and the planet” in the world that you know.
Earth Science Week: Essay Contest - Deadline: October 13, 2017
Essays should focus on the topic “Human Interaction With Earth Systems.” Earth science expands our understanding of human interaction with the planet’s natural systems and processes. Our impact can be seen in areas such as energy, technology, climate change, the environment, natural disasters, industry, agriculture, recreation, and tourism. Geoscientists explore the relationship between human activity and the hydrosphere (water), geosphere (earth), atmosphere (air), and biosphere (life).
USFWS Schoolyard Habitat Program – Deadline: On-Going
The Schoolyard Habitat Program helps teachers and students create wildlife habitat at their own schools. Schoolyard Habitat projects include: wetlands, meadows, forests and variations based on specific eco-regions. Many projects are planned through multiple phases and change over time as children from various classes build upon the existing work of past students. We work with your school to provide technical and organizational assistance to schools, so they can create outdoor classrooms that are effective as educational tools as well as sustainable habitat.
California Project WET Gazette is published by the Water Education Foundation, which serves as the state coordinator and host institution for Project WET USA, a program of the Project WET Foundation.
Editor: Brian Brown, California Project WET Coordinator