Sac State seeks water policy experts

Jacob Abbott

A recent initiative created by the administration of Academic Affairs focuses on hiring new professors with an expertise in water policy and several water-related fields including hydrogeology and water resources engineering.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Frederika “Fraka” Harmsen, announced Sacramento State will be expanding its research efforts on water issues with an emphasis on increasing student involvement in the process.

“Huge efforts need to be made in water conservation, distribution, technology and policy, in order for this precious limited resource to be sufficient to support the ever-growing population of California, as well as our agricultural enterprise,” Harmsen said.

The initiative, originally known as an Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainability, is in its early stages of formation and will be funding through the university’s budget.

The Office of Research Affairs said a full plan is expected to be developed by the spring semester with a launch over the summer.

Research Affairs said there are currently five potential faculty hires in the recruitment phase with Academic Affairs. These professors will work with students on projects related to water, energy and sustainability issues intended to broaden the university’s impact on California.

“Sac State, with its proximity to two major rivers, reservoirs and the state capitol, is perfectly poised geographically to be a major player in water issues,” Harmsen said. “Increasing the capacity of the university to perform research and train students in water issues is one of my visions for this campus.”

David Earwicker, assistant vice president for research affairs, said his department supports the provost’s initiative because of the opportunities it will provide Sac State students and faculty.

“It will serve as a catalyst for a considerable amount of new and exploratory research activity,” Earwicker said. “Sacramento State is in the core of a dynamic natural resource research environment, allowing us to participate in a living laboratory on a daily basis.”

Research Affairs is preparing to collaborate on a project with the California Department of Public Health by having students and faculty conduct survey research. Earwicker anticipates the data will inform both current practice and new policy directions in the future.

“The number of externally-funded research and sponsored projects is rising, with more faculty and students engaged each year,” Earwicker said. “I expect that to continue, at an accelerated pace, for quite some time.”

The new hires will work together with faculty from Sac State’s water resource centers developing strategies to improve policy and providing solutions for enhancing water resources.

The Center for Collaborative Policy, located in Downtown Sacramento, uses collaborative strategies to improve policy outcomes including flooding and levee management, fresh-water fisheries management and water restoration projects.

The Office of Water Programs provides cost effective solutions for protecting and enhancing water resources, and its two major activities are operator training and applied engineering studies.

Ramzi J. Mahmood, Director of Office of Water Programs, said OWP is the largest self-funded university center on campus and is one of the largest in the CSU system.

“OWP has a permanent staff of research engineers and scientists who engage in applied studies for outside agencies,” Mahmood said. “As we hire faculty with expertise in water and increase our capacity, we expect to be able to participate in more research and applied studies opportunities.”

Harmsen said Sac State students can anticipate additional classes due to the new hirings.

“New faculty also typically develop additional classes in their areas of expertise,” Harmsen said. “Students can expect more opportunities to become involved in water-related research and policy work.”