Environmental Science and Policy 190 -- Water Management and the Tuolumne River

This applied workshop -- Water Management and the Tuolumne River -- featuring analyses of contemporary environmental problems in a multidisciplinary fashion. Students will be exposed to both environmental science and policy, tackling some of the toughest issues facing California: water resources, multiple downstream demands, and climate change adaptation. By using the Tuolumne River as a case study, students had the opportunity to learn about the history and future of this landmark river in our nation's history.

The headwaters of the Tuolumne River are located in the central Sierra Nevada, forming the northern portion of Yosemite National Park, and its waters ultimately flow through the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the City of Modesto and the San Joaquin River. The uniqueness of the Tuolumne River is bound in its history, its environmental setting, and its modern socioeconomic importance. The damming of the Tuolumne River at Hetch Hetchy is a landmark moment in our nation’s history. The Tuolumne River downstream of Hetch Hetchy is unique in that although its flow is regulated a twenty‐mile reach is designated as Wild & Scenic. Water from this system is managed per the Raker Act, which allows the City of San Francisco to exclusively use much of it for municipal water supply and hydropower production.

Topical breakouts included: the Tuolumne River watershed and its position with the state’s water management system with a focus on water transfers; the role and history of Hetch Hetchy in California’s water solutions; the geomorphic character of the river and how it relates to water operations; the ecological character of the river and how it relates to water operations; the relevant water policies that pertain to the river; and how climate change is likely to affect water availability and operations.

Class projects consisted of taking a dominant theme of the Tuolumne River watershed and translating it into a virtual field trip via a Google Earth enabled file. The following students completed their projects:

Our end of the term field trip did not conclude on the Tuolumne River, due to an erratic and unpredictable flow release schedule in the Spring of 2010. We did, however, succeed in having a good time on the American River!