Water Resource Development in the Santa Clara Valley, California

EPA Grant Number: U915207
Title: Water Resource Development in the Santa Clara Valley, California
Investigators: Reynolds, Jesse L.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Chemistry and Materials Science


The objective of this research project is to investigate how scientific and technological innovations, new management approaches, and changing attitudes toward water as a natural resource have been incorporated into water resource policies.


I am using a historical case study to investigate the factors that led to a generally successful regional water management plan in the Santa Clara Valley, California. There, deep sediments contain a large reservoir of groundwater, although the annual recharge to these aquifers is relatively small. The accumulated groundwater was mined for agricultural intensification in the early twentieth century. Consequently, piezometric head levels lowered rapidly. The lack of effective institutions to regulate this common pool resource led the local population to fund a water resources study and form a water conservation district. The resulting water management plan was innovative in that: (1) its formulation considered many aspects of the region, including hydrology, geology, soils, historical development, economic conditions, and political climate; (2) it evaluated and attempted to best utilize multiple components of the hydrologic cycle such as the uneven distribution of precipitation and the recharge, movement, and discharge of groundwater; and (3) it incorporated recent technologies. I am investigating the source of these innovations by researching the modern and historical understanding of the geography and hydrology of the valley, the exchange of water resource management ideas among regions of California, and the perception of water as a natural resource among the individuals and communities involved. My primary sources of information are: the California Water Resources Center Archive, the Bancroft Library, the Santa Clara Valley Water District archives, the California History Center, and the San Jose Historical Museum.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, water management, groundwater, hydrologic cycle, water conservation district, Santa Clara Valley, California, CA, water resource management.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998
  • Final