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Posts Tagged: Water Quality Quantity and Security

Doug Parker retires from bicoastal career of water research

Doug Parker receives “Friend of UCOWR Award” from Jonathan Yoder, director of the State of Washington Water Research Center at Washington State University and member of the UCOWR Board of Directors.

Working to solve California water challenges, Doug Parker coordinates water-related research, extension and education efforts across the University of California system, other academic institutions and government agencies. Since 2011, Parker has served as director of the California Institute for Water Resources for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

From 2011 to 2018, he also led UC ANR's Strategic Initiative on Water Quantity, Quality and Security. After more than 30 years solving agricultural water-related issues in California and Maryland, Parker will retire July 1.

“Doug has been instrumental in the implementation of some of California's new state programs for those who produce our food,” said Amrith Gunasekara, director of science and research for the California Farm Bureau Federation's California Bountiful Foundation.

“He has handled multiple contracts with the state totaling several million dollars, which brought existing and new technologies to farmers and ranchers and helped the state in meeting some of its climate change goals. He put together a boots-on-the-ground, climate-smart agriculture team and served as a subject-matter expert for many years on a scientific advisory body at the state,” said Gunasekara, former director of the Office of Environmental Farming & Innovation for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

CDFA partnered with Parker and UC ANR to help farmers use the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, Healthy Soils Program, Dairy Digester Research and Development Program and Climate-Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance through UCCE.

Parker, left, and Terry Stark, former executive director of the California Association of Pest Control Advisers, welcomed growers and PCAs to the first nitrogen management training in 2014.

Over his career, Parker has overseen water research and education projects totaling over $42 million. Connecting people has been the part of the job that he has most enjoyed “to help bring science to bear on California water solutions.”

“When I first got here in October of 2011, I spent my first six months researching who was working on water across the state, mostly at the UC system, but elsewhere as well, then going and visiting them, finding out what they were working on and basically building a database,” Parker said. “Having that knowledge allowed me to go to work with CDFA and the Department of Water Resources and say, ‘Oh you're having a problem with this? I know somebody at UC San Diego. Let me connect you two and let you work on this problem together.' That has always been the most rewarding part of this job, making those connections.”

In 2019, through a collaboration between the Strategic Growth Council, CDFA and UC ANR, Parker assembled a team of 10 community educators to provide technical assistance and outreach to promote climate-smart agriculture incentive programs. The climate-smart projects have reduced greenhouse gases equivalent to removing roughly 7,000 gasoline-powered cars from the road.

With his affable personality and ability to simply explain California's complex water issues, Parker has frequently been interviewed by news reporters. He has authored more than 100 articles, reports, books or book chapters and delivered over 230 presentations.

At the 2017 World Ag Expo, Doug Parker and Sam Sandoval Solis show a Master Gardener volunteer how groundwater moves.

“I've always been interested in water,” said Parker, noting he wrote his bachelor's thesis on New Melones Dam. He earned his bachelor's degrees in economics and environmental studies at UC Santa Barbara and Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, then began his career at University of Maryland's Center for Public Issues in Biotechnology in 1990 studying the economic benefits of innovation in the burgeoning agricultural biotechnology industry before focusing on water issues. 

Parker, who grew up in the Bay Area and San Diego area, returned to the West Coast from 1993 to 1997 to work as a UC Cooperative Extension economist at UC Berkeley studying approaches to dealing with drought and water supply shortages.

His analysis of the California Irrigation Management Information System, or CIMIS, showed that growers using the system run by the state Department of Water Resources reduced agricultural water use by 100,000 acre-feet per year and generated almost $65 million per year in statewide benefits. As a result of the study, the CIMIS program was expanded across the state. A recent study found that CIMIS enables growers to reduce water use by 20% annually and generates $150 million to $422 million in benefits per year.

Doug Parker
He returned to the University of Maryland for 14 years as a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics working on Chesapeake Bay water quality. To encourage farmers to manage plant nutrients, Parker and the Maryland Department of Agriculture created an online trading platform where growers could change their practices to earn water-quality credits, which resulted in growers increasing adoption of best management practices and reducing water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to his university service, Parker served on the board of the national Universities Council on Water Resources from 2014 to 2021. As UCOWR president in 2016-17, he initiated a strategic planning process. When Parker received the “Friend of UCOWR Award” at the council's annual conference held June 14–16 in Greenville, South Carolina, the presenter noted, “Doug's extraordinary leadership, cooperative spirit and sense of humor helped his cohort and successive UCOWR Board members and staff to accomplish major Strategic Plan goals.”

“Doug was incredibly easy to work with – a wealth of knowledge and walking science dictionary, and tireless problem solver, someone who brought people together with a vision and a great leader,” Gunasekara said. “He will be surely missed and have big boots to fill.” 

Even as he enters retirement, Parker is launching a project with Khaled Bali, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, to help growers prevent nitrogen from leaching into groundwater. He plans to spend a year helping the UC Cooperative Extension specialists, advisors and six staff research assistants who will work with growers across the state. With funds from the project, growers will be able to buy equipment such as flow meters to improve management and efficiency of their irrigation and fertilization systems.

Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 1:50 PM

Strategic Initiative Brief: Dahlke named Water Strategic Initiative leader

From left, Ken Shackel, Helen Dahlke and Roger Duncan discuss groundwater recharge in an almond orchard in 2016.

Following an open call, Helen Dahlke has agreed to take on the role of leader for the Strategic Initiative for Water Quality, Quantity and Security.

Dahlke is associate professor in integrated hydrologic sciences in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. She brings a rich history of experience having completed her undergraduate and master's degrees in her native Germany before earning her Ph.D. at Cornell University. After her Ph.D., she did postdoctoral work at Stockholm University in Sweden before joining UC Davis in 2013.

Helen Dahlke
“California's water quantity, quality and security are increasingly impacted by uncertainty and scarcity,” said Dahlke. “As leader of the water SI, I hope to learn about the water challenges in California to develop and communicate solutions with the UC ANR team and our stakeholders.”

Dahlke's current research interests include surface water – groundwater interaction, water resources management, vadose zone transport processes, and applications of DNA nanotechnology in hydrology. She comes with a broad appreciation of the multiple roles for addressing issues facing water across the state from the mountains to the sea. One of her main research efforts focuses on testing the feasibility of using agricultural fields as recharge sites for groundwater replenishment.

“We welcome and thank Helen for adding this new role to her ongoing activities,” said Mark Bell, vice provost for strategic initiatives and statewide programs. “The SI leaders are the champions for the broad umbrellas of work across the organization.”

The Strategic Initiatives help people connect while helping unify, communicate and advocate for UC ANR's work across the state. The SI leaders are part of Program Council, which provides input for programmatic policy and direction for the organization.

Posted on Monday, February 28, 2022 at 10:51 AM

$1 million grant expands climate-ready landscape plants program

Landscape plants under varying irrigation levels are evaluated at South Coast REC to determine the best irrigation level for optimal plant performance.

A research project initiated in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis evaluates landscape plants in two-year trials under varying irrigation levels to determine the best irrigation level for optimal plant performance in regions requiring supplemental summer water. Creating water budgets is required by California's Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), and the results from these research trials help landscape professionals and home gardeners make informed decisions when specifying, selecting or promoting low water-use landscape plant material.

This year, the CDFA/USDA Specialty Crops Multistate Program funded a new Climate Ready Landscape Plants project, which will replicate the successful fields that are currently installed at UC Davis and UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.

Loren Oki will oversee a new Climate Ready Landscape Plants project. Photo by Ann Filmer

Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, is the lead principal investigator and collaborators include researcher Jared Sisneroz;  project leader Karrie Reid, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County; and Darren Haver, UC Cooperative Extension water resources and water quality advisor and director of South Coast REC and UCCE in Orange County.

Under Oki's oversight, this new $999,992 grant will support the development of additional fields at several western universities:

  • University of Washington, Soo-Hyung Kim
  • Oregon State University, Lloyd Nackley and Ryan Contreras
  • Utah State University Center, Youping Sun and Larry Rupp
  • University of Arizona, Ursula Schuch

Conducting these new experiments on landscape plants at diverse sites across the western U.S. will reveal differences in recommendations since irrigation guidelines for landscapes vary depending on climate and soil type.

The initial project was initiated as Reid's master's degree thesis research in 2004, with Oki as her major professor, and has been ongoing since then.

Project descriptions, results and images can be seen at the UC Landscape Plant Irrigation Trials website at

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 9:13 AM
  • Author: Ann Filmer

Apply by Nov. 9 to be SI leader for Water or Healthy Families and Communities

ANR academics are invited to apply for Strategic Initiative leader positions, which play key roles in unifying, communicating and advocating to strengthen UC ANR's research and outreach agenda. Given the ongoing evolving role of the UC ANR Strategic Initiatives (SI), the SI leaders agreed that it would again be beneficial to conduct an open search – from across the breadth of expertise of the division – for the next rotation of SI leaders.

Open Positions. Two SI leader positions are scheduled to rotate off at the end of 2018. This change offers opportunities for others to take the lead for

Who is eligible to apply? The positions are open to all UC ANR academics, including Agricultural Experiment Station faculty and Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists. Strategic Initiative leaders are appointed by the Associate Vice President on a rotating basis for three years, with a possibility of extension.

Current SI leaders

The SIs help unify, communicate and advocate for what UC ANR does. See the UCANR Strategic Initiatives website for more information.

To apply for one of the SI leader positions, complete the simple form at Applications will be accepted until Nov. 9.

Applicants will be contacted for interviews in late November or early December. The new leaders are anticipated to start on Jan. 2, 2019.

For information regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Strategic Initiative leader position, see the Terms of Reference for Strategic Initiative Leaders. If you have questions, contact Mark Bell, vice provost of Strategic Initiatives and Statewide Programs.

Water institute celebrates 60 years

The water institute has been directed by academics across the UC system, beginning with Martin Huberty in the 1950s, John Letey in the 1990s and Doug Parker currently.

The California Institute for Water Resources is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

To commemorate the changes and achievements of the institute, FaithKearns,CIWR academic coordinator II, wrote a Q&A with Doug Parker, CIWR director and leader of the Water Quality, Quantity, and Security Strategic Initiative.

Originally located at UCLA in 1957 and directed by Martin Huberty, over the years, the multi-campus research unit moved between the UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Riverside campuses.

In 2011, ANR renamed UC Water Resources Center the California Institute for Water Resources and established its headquarters at the UC Office of the President in Oakland, where it remains today.

“The initial mission of the institute still stands: to integrate California's research, extension, and education programs to develop research-based solutions to water resource challenges,” Parker said. “In practice, we work across all kinds of institutions and provide educational programs through direct contactweb-based programs, and social media to increase understanding of complex water issues while also trying to diversify the conversation about water within our state.”

To read more about CIWR activities and key water issues that Parker sees ahead for the state, visit //

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