Freshwater. It’s essential to our survival. But challenges ranging from climate change to rising populations threaten water supplies around the globe. Stanford researchers are tackling those problems with novel approaches that cross academic disciplines. They range from a high-tech wastewater resource recovery center to decision-making tools illustrating major groundwater challenges and potential fixes. To advance innovative research in the field, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment supports two programs. The Global Freshwater Initiative develops strategies to ensure the long-term viability of water supplies. The Water in the West Program creates and promotes strategies for more effective water management in the American West. Through these and other Woods initiatives, Stanford researchers are working to provide adequate supply and access to safe water for people.


Improving Groundwater Management

Researchers with Stanford’s Water in the West program are working to inform and support implementation of the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The program partnered with Stanford Law School’s Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution on a survey of groundwater managers and stakeholders, which highlighted the need for consistent groundwater data across California. A team led by George L. Harrington Professor Rosemary Knight (Stanford Earth) developed a computer algorithm that can “fill in” groundwater levels using satellite date to advance models of groundwater flow in regions with aquifer depletion. Read More.

Advancing Water Innovation

Newsha Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford’s Water in the West program, was invited to attend the first-ever White House Water Summit, and spoke at a panel discussion on water sector innovation during the White House Roundtable on Water Innovation. Ajami also co-authored a series of briefs on Water Sector Innovation with Perry L. McCarty Co-Director Barton “Buzz” Thompson, providing an overview of steps needed to update the nation's aging water infrastructure with financing and management strategies. Read more.

Examining Desalination

Desalination may be critically important to specific coastal communities for freshwater supplies but it is unlikely to significantly alter the water equation in California due to its high cost, energy demands and other factors. That conclusion emerged from a report summarizing discussion at a Woods Uncommon Dialogue organized with the Center for Ocean Solutions and Water in the West, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The two-day meeting was held to examine challenges and opportunities desalination presents for coastal communities in California. Read more.

Decoding Water Vulnerability

Institutional issues like corruption are the most common impediments to a stable water supply, and affect nearly 40 percent of 119 countries studied by Stanford Global Freshwater Initiative researchers including Steven Gorelick, the Cyrus Fisher Tolman Professor in the School of Earth, Energy &Environmental Sciences. Read more.

Finding Fracking Impacts

Fracking operations near a small town in Wyoming have had clear impacts to underground sources of drinking water due to unsafe practices including the dumping of drilling fluids, unlined pits, and inadequate barriers to protect groundwater, according to a study co-authored by Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor Robert Jackson (Stanford Earth). Jackson, a Woods senior fellow, also presented evidence at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that faulty wells can leak oil and natural gas and contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies. Read more.

Water Financing

Water infrastructure requires significant investment – a challenge when traditional federal and state funding is limited. Using lessons learned from the energy and electricity sectors, researchers with Stanford’s Water in the West program produced a report on alternative ways to fund innovative water projects. Read more.

On Camera

Toward Sustainable Groundwater

After decades of dysfunction that have exacerbated chronic water problems, California is on the cusp of a new era due to historic groundwater legislation. However, meeting the law’s goals will require overcoming stubborn systemic obstacles, according to a report by researchers at Stanford’s Water in the West program and the Gould Center for Conflict Resolution at the Stanford Law School. Read more.

Stormwater as a Drought Solution

Stanford researchers are working with local and federal agencies in Los Angeles, Sonoma and other drought-stricken California cities in an unprecedented effort to capture and reuse stormwater. The approach could be part of a solution not only to water shortages but also to run-off laced with pesticides and other chemicals that can contaminate beaches and contribute to oxygen-choking, fish-killing algae blooms. Read more.

In The News

Eleven Experts to Watch on California Water Rights

Buzz Thompson discusses issues involving water rights in California.
August 9, 2016 - By Eline Gordts, News Deeply

Read More


Robert Jackson guests on a podcast discusses fracking's impact on our environment.
July 27, 2016 - By Caitlin Kenney, Heather Rogers, and Kaitlyn Sawrey, Gimlet

Read More

When It Comes to Water, We Need All the Data We Can Get

Editorial board discusses study by Robert Jackson of deep groundwater and the Water in the West program's survey of groundwater stakeholders in...
July 23, 2016 - By The Desert Sun Editorial Board, The Desert Sun

Read More

Seven Experts to Watch on California’s Groundwater

Researchers with Water in the West program named "experts to watch."
July 21, 2016 - By Eline Gordts, NewsDeeply / Water Deeply

Read More

Top Tweets