Drought Experts

UC Davis Experts on Drought and Water Supply Issues

Aerial view of Lake Oroville at half its water capacity for month of May, with water line
Lake Oroville in Butte County on May 4, 2021 was at 42 percent capacity, about half its average capacity for this time of year. (Kelly M. Grow, CA Department of Water Resources)

Experts from the University of California, Davis, are available to media to discuss the drought and water-supply issues affecting California. These include faculty and staff of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and others.

Drought issues often intersect with those of wildfire. The UC Davis Wildfire, Smoke and Air Quality experts list is also available.

Water management and planning 

Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, can discuss the short-term and prolonged impacts of drought on California’s water supply. He has particular expertise in water management and policy, urban water conservation, and the relationship between Northern California’s water supply and water deliveries statewide. Contact: 530-752-5671, jrlund@ucdavis.edu.

Irrigation, hydrology and management

Samuel Sandoval, an associate professor and UC Cooperative Extension specialist, is an expert in water resources management, environmental flows, irrigation and pesticide management. He works with scientists, engineers, environmentalists, farm workers and decision-makers to integrate ideas into policies and develop strategies to cope better with drought. He is the co-host of the Water Talk Podcast. Bilingual in Spanish and English. Contact: Samuel Sandoval, samsandoval@ucdavis.edu.

Man beneath bridge by a stream folds water-collection gear.
Samuel Sandoval Solis packs up gear after collecting water from a stream near Willows, California, in 2015. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Mallika Nocco is the soil-plant-water relations and irrigation management specialist in UC Cooperative Extension in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources.  Her expertise includes irrigation scheduling, crop water-use physiology, soil hydrologic health, and crop water stress. She works with growers, policymakers, and water districts to develop irrigation management strategies that balance farm livelihoods and water conservation. She is co-host of the Water Talk Podcast and director of the Conservation Irrigation Lab. Contact: manocco@ucdavis.edu, @mallika_nocco on Twitter. 

Majdi Abou Najm is an associate professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and associate director of initiatives for the John Muir Institute of the Environment. He can discuss water management and sustainability, including how water, contaminants and nutrients flow through agricultural soils. Contact: mabounajm@ucdavis.edu.

Isaya Kisekka is an associate professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. He is an expert on water demand and water quality issues. These include irrigation, groundwater sustainability in intensively irrigated basins, water reuse in agriculture, and soil salinity management. He also studies impacts of climate change and cropping systems on evapotranspiration. He works with the agricultural community, government agencies and private industry to address water issues in agriculture. Contact: 530-379-9549, ikisekka@ucdavis.edu

Male scientist points in the distance with two adult students in agricultural field
Professor Isaya Kisekka talks in 2018 with students Mackenzie Guilliams and Marcoluis Garcia about a sensor box used to measure moisture for a UC Davis agricultural research project at a tomato field.

Flood risk

Nicholas Pinter, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is a nationally recognized expert in flooding, flood risk and management. His research is focused on rivers, floodplains, flood hydrology and watersheds, which he’s applied to help provide a scientific basis for sound natural-hazards public policy at national and local levels. He holds the Roy J. Shlemon Chair in Applied Geosciences. Contact: 530-754-1041, npinter@ucdavis.edu.

Groundwater sustainability

Graham Fogg, professor emeritus of hydrogeology in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, is an expert on groundwater quality and sustainability, groundwater modeling, the response of water systems to climate change, and the transport of groundwater contaminants. Contact: 530-752-6810, gefogg@ucdavis.edu.

Thomas Harter is an expert on groundwater occurrence, groundwater flow, recharge dynamics, the role of rivers, precipitation and irrigation in maintaining our aquifers, and on how human activities and agriculture affect groundwater quality. He is a professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and a UC Cooperative Extension groundwater hydrologist. Contact: 530-400-1784, thharter@ucdavis.edu.

Helen Dahlke, associate professor in integrated hydrologic science at the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, can discuss the impact of climate change on the snowpack, surface water quantity and quality, and long-term trends in water resources availability and sustainability. Her work includes research on using farmlands for large-scale winter groundwater recharge. Contact: 530-302-5358, hdahlke@ucdavis.edu.

Woman in purple jacket stands in rain in almond orchard for groundwater recharge experiment.
UC Davis hydrologist Helen Dahlke stands in a Modesto almond orchard in an experiment she is leading to recharge the aquifer by flooding farmland in the winter. (Joe Proudman/UC Davis)


Economic impact on agriculture and consumers

Daniel Sumner is the Frank H. Buck Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. He can discuss the impact of drought on the economy, commodity and food markets, food availability, and consumer food prices. He can explain how farmers are likely to adjust the crops they grow, as well as how food prices will be affected in California and around the nation. Contact: dasumner@ucdavis.edu.

Drought impacts for ranchers

Ken Tate is a professor and UC Cooperative Extension rangeland watershed specialist, as well as the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Chair in Rangeland Watershed Sciences. He works closely with ranchers to help them cope with drought, which has severely impacted California’s 41 million acres of rangeland. Contact: 530-754-8988, kwtate@ucdavis.edu.

Leslie Roche is the rangeland management specialist in UC Cooperative Extension in the Department of Plant Sciences. She works with ranchers and rangeland managers to develop drought adaptation and recovery strategies. California ranching is largely dependent on rain-fed systems — as opposed to groundwater or stored water — and therefore is among the first in agriculture impacted by drought. Contact: 530-754-8766, lmroche@ucdavis.edu.

Water and wine

Megan Bartlett, assistant professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology, uses modeling and experimental approaches to address questions about drought and heat tolerance in grapevines. Her work examines how grapevines mitigate stress and the consequences for growth, yield and water use. Contact: mkbartlett@ucdavis.edu.

Andy Walker is a grape breeder, geneticist and professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology. His research focuses on developing disease and pest-resistant rootstocks, as well as breeding table, raisin and wine grapes with resistance to Pierce’s disease and powdery mildew. Contact: awalker@ucdavis.edu.

Man in hat framed by grape vines in vineyard
Professor Andy Walker checks the sugar levels of grapes in a vineyard outside the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute in 2013. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)


Crops and drought

Patrick H. Brown is a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. He can discuss drought and salinity issues related to permanent crops and nut trees. His research focus is the function and transport of nutrients in plants in agricultural systems. Contact: phbrown@ucdavis.edu.

Dan Putnam is a Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences. He can discuss drought impacts on alfalfa, the largest acreage crop in California. He is a global expert on forage quality and water-use efficiency, with a focus on salinity. Contact: dhputname@ucdavis.edu.

Charlie Brummer is a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and director of the Center for Plant Breeding. He can discuss the necessity, difficulties, and opportunities of breeding plants in a changing climate and under drought conditions. Contact: ecbrummer@ucdavis.edu.

Fish and forests

Watershed management and fish

Peter Moyle is a professor emeritus of fish biology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology and associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences. He is an authority on freshwater and estuarine fishes of California, including the delta smelt. He has monitored native fish populations through droughts for more than four decades and can discuss the declining status of native fishes, as well as the invasions of nonnative species. Contact: 530-752-6355, pbmoyle@ucdavis.edu.

Andrew Rypel is co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, an associate professor, and the Peter B. Moyle and California Trout Chair in Coldwater Fish Ecology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. He can discuss how drought, climate change and other factors impact freshwater fisheries and ecosystems. Contact: rypel@ucdavis.edu

Nann Fangue is a professor of physiological ecology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. She studies the physiological requirements fish need to survive and thrive in complex environments, and she can discuss how climate change and drought are impacting fish and aquatic systems. Contact: nafangue@ucdavis.edu.

Rob Lusardi is a senior aquatic research ecologist at the Center for Watershed Sciences and assistant adjunct faculty in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. He is also the California Trout-UC Davis Wild and Coldwater Fish Scientist. He can discuss drought and climate change’s effects on rivers and native fish populations. Contact: ralusardi@ucdavis.edu.

Man stands in stream under canopy of trees
Rob Lusardi conducts research in the Little Shasta River in 2017. (Joe Proudman/UC Davis)

Sarah Yarnell is a senior researcher with the Center for Watershed Sciences and a member of the California Environmental Flows Workgroup. She can discuss streamflows, how much water river species need and river ecosystem processes. Contact: smyarnell@ucdavis.edu.


Andrew Latimer, a professor of plant sciences, can discuss how forests and grasslands respond to climate change, drought and fire. Contact: 530-309-9111, amlatimer@ucdavis.edu.

Water law and policy

Karrigan Bork, a professor in the School of Law, can discuss legal and ethical issues related to ecological restoration, invasive species, endangered species (particularly trout and salmon), ecosystem management, the California Delta, the public trust, and other topics related to environmental and water law. Contact: 202-271-9392, ksbork@ucdavis.edu.

Richard Frank, professor of environmental practice at the School of Law, can comment on legal and policy issues arising out of California’s drought. His expertise includes California water rights law, drought-related issues confronting California and the American West, legislation, and water governance issues in California. He has testified before Congressional and California state legislative committees on these topics. Contact: 530-752-7422, rmfrank@ucdavis.edu.

Water and energy

Frank Loge directs the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency and is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Loge can discuss the link between water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions; and energy used in water production, treatment, use and disposal. His expertise includes novel efficiency technologies, the role of information technology in water-energy efficiency and water rates. Contact: 530-754-2297, fjloge@ucdavis.edu.

Edward “Ned” Spang, assistant professor of food science and technology, is an expert on the water-energy nexus, the inextricable link between water and energy. He can discuss energy used to produce fresh water and water consumed in energy production at a local, national or global scale. He can also discuss water and energy policy. Contact: 530-754-5447, esspang@ucdavis.edu.

Drought and disparities 

Jonathan London is an associate professor of human ecology. He can discuss how drought may impact existing and future disparities across California communities that are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Contact: jklondon@ucdavis.edu.

Gardens and landscapes

Rachel Davis, GATEways horticulturist for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, is an expert on habitat gardening and sustainable planting design. Davis’ projects include establishing UC Davis as a member of Bee Campus USA. She can discuss how to create and maintain drought- tolerant landscapes that support pollinators and other species throughout the urban environment. Contact: ramdavis@ucdavis.edu.

Haven Kiers is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental design in the Department of Human Ecology. She can discuss urban/suburban green infrastructure and sustainable design that is drought-tolerant and climate-resilient. Contact: ahkiers@ucdavis.edu.

Woman scientist takes measurements in plot of grass framed by pvc pipe.
Assistant Professor Haven Kiers measures grass as part of a sheep-grazing experiment on the UC Davis campus in 2021. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Taylor Lewis, horticulturist and nursery manager for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Teaching Nursery, is an expert on how homeowners can make their landscapes drought-tolerant by incorporating California natives and drought-tolerant plants from around the world. He has studied the best methods for planting and growing California natives, and has worked to make them publicly available. Contact: tclewis@ucdavis.edu.

Andrew Fulks, assistant director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, manages the campus’s natural landscape areas for teaching, research and public use. He can discuss converting landscapes from high maintenance and high water-use to regionally appropriate landscapes with multiple aesthetic and wildlife benefits. Contact: 530-219-7618, amfulks@ucdavis.edu.

Urban horticulture

Dave Fujino directs the California Center for Urban Horticulture. He can discuss caring for plants under drought or water-stressed conditions, conserving water in urban gardens and planting drought-resistant landscapes. Contact: dwfujino@ucdavis.edu.

Lorence Oki, a specialist in Cooperative Extension in the departments of Plant Sciences and Human Ecology, focuses on water issues in environmental horticulture. He can discuss irrigation efficiency and runoff management. Contact: lroki@ucdavis.edu.

Media Resources

Media Contacts: 

  • Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News and Media Relations, Environment, 530-750-9195, kekerlin@ucdavis.edu 
  • Amy Quinton, UC Davis News and Media Relations, Agriculture, 530-601-8077, amquinton@ucdavis.edu

Top photo: Lake Oroville in Butte County on May 4, 2021, was at 42 percent capacity, which is about half its average capacity for this time of year. (Kelly M. Grow/California Department of Water Resources)

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

Environment Food & Agriculture