Water Availability and Use Projects

Rainwater Capturing System - Winner of the 2017 Best Water Poster Award

2017: We designed a rainwater capture system to provide water to the SSU Garden Classroom. The system, approved for installation in the summer of 2017, will be mounted on the roof of the Environmental Technology Center and is estimated to collect and store 4000 – 8000 gallons of water per year. The water will be distributed to the garden via a drip irrigation system.

  • Faculty: Karna Wong (Environmental Studies and Planning)
  • Partners: Daily Acts, Engineers Without Borders, SSU Facilities
  • Students: Internship
  • Results:Rai 2017a (poster 2.0 Mb) - Rainwater capturing system

An Integrated Land Use and Water Planning Tool

2017: An excel-based land use and planning tool, developed by the SSU Center for Sustainable Communities for the Department of Water Resources, was used to evaluate three development projects in the cities of Rohnert Park and Sonoma. The results are used to create a student user guide and video tutorial to tranform the planning tool into a teaching resource that will be used in the future to teach SSU students about land use planning.

  • Faculty: Mike Moore, Tom Jacobson, Alex Hinds (Geography Environment and Planning)
  • Partners: Department of Water Resources, City of Rohnert Park, City of Sonoma, Sonoma County Water Agency
  • Students: Internships
  • Results: Kelly et al. 2017 (poster 0.4 Mb) - An Integrated Land Use and Water Tool: The Value of Assessment Tools in Learning About and Understanding the Cost and Benefits of Site-Specific Land Development Options on Water Conservation and Water Quality, Moore et al. 2017 (report 0.03 Mb) - Integrating Water and Land Management: Student User’s Guide - DRAFT
  • Data (see data disclaimer): 2017 Project Site Data
  • Video: Tutorial Video

Underground Sensor Networks

2017: We developed and tested a low-cost wireless underground sensor network (WUSN) to better understand how this tool can be used to monitor soil temperature, moisture and composition. Clay content of the soil had a significant effect on wave attenuation.

  • Faculty: Farid Farahmand (Engineering Science)
  • Partners: Dr. Erin Fong (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Science Division)
  • Students: Internships
  • Results: Palmerin et al. 2017 (poster 1.2 Mb) - A Comparative Study of RF Wave Attenuation in Soil and Sand

Water Harvester

2017: Our goal is to develop a low-cost device that harvests water directly from the air using only direct solar power.


Using Robots to Teach Children About Water

2017: More students retained water information when interacting with a social robot than with a human.

  • Faculty: John Sullins (Philosophy)
  • Students: PHIL 301 Philosophy of Science and Technology
  • Results: McCabe et al. 2017 (poster 1.6 Mb) - Children interact with social robot

Societal Attitudes on the Water Resources

2017: Municipalities, conservation districts and non-profits were asked about their role in using, managing, and protecting local water resources, and the ways in which they address sustainability of water resources. Results are discussed through the lens of four environmental political theories and recommendations are made for SCWA leadership.

  • Faculty: Emily Ray (Political Science)
  • Partners: Michael Thompson (Sonoma County Water District)
  • Students: Explorations in Environmental Political Theory (POLS 415)
  • Results: Souza 2017 (report pdf 0.8 Mb) - The worth of water: drought perception and adaptation among Sonoma County farmers, Finch et al. 2017 (poster pdf 4.3 Mb) - Securing Our Water Future: Environmental Political Theory as a Framework of
    Sustainability for the Sonoma County Water Agency

Rohnert Park flood warning system

2015-16: AFWEAR is a real-time network of environmental sensors that improves flood warning for the City of Rohnert Park. Early models of the system include rain and precipitation sensors that measure rainfall intensity in the upper watershed and automatically notify city officials.

  • Faculty: Farid Farahmand (Engineering Name)
  • Partners: Shivakumar Mathapathi (Dew Mobility), Darin Jenkins (City of Rohnert Park), Mary Grace Pawson (City of Rohnert Park), Christopher Halle (CEI), Michael Thompson (Sonoma County Water District), Jaime Penherrera (City of Santa Rosa), NIST Gobal Cities Challenge
  • Students: ES 493 Capstone Research, ES 599 Thesis Research
  • Results: Balietto 2016b (Poster 3 Mb) - Advanced Flood Warning and Environmental Awareness System (AFWEAR)

Freshmen studies in water availability and use system

2016-present: A Watershed Year is a freshman year experience that introduces students to local watersheds as they learn about science. The course focuses on teaching students how to conduct their own research. Course development was funded by National Science Foundation (PI: Lynn Stauffer).

  • Faculty: Martha Shott (Mathematics and Statistics), Jeremy Qualls (Physics), Nathan Rank (Biology), Fran Keller (Biology), Jackie Guilford (Biology), Wendy St. John (Biology)
  • Partners: Goldridge Resoure Conservation District, Center for Environmental Inquiry
  • Students: SCI 120 A Watershed Year (Freshman Year Experience)
  • Results: Belote-Broussard et al. 2017 (poster 0.8 Mb) - The Feasibility of a Rainwater Catchment System For Sonoma State University

Development of a modular biotreatment systems for winery and brewery wastewater

2015-16: We are testing and developing an efficient Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) treatment system that extracts and utilizes chemical energy from high-strength winery wastewater. The resulting water is of sufficent quality to make the water available for irrigation. Lessons learned will be used to inform the design of a larger pilot MFC system to be installed at D’Argenzio Winery

  • Faculty: Mike Cohen (Biology), Farid Farahmand (Engineering Science), Ali Koojury (Engineering Science)
  • Partners: Ray D’Argenzio (D'Argenzio Winery)
  • Students: ES 599 Thesis Research; BIOL 495 Special Studies; BIOL 393 Independent Research; BIOL 578 Master's Research
  • Results

Sustainable water solutions

2015-16: Sustainable water, a principle of One Planet Living,is founded upon the practice of efficient water usage. We explore to what extent North Bay Schools engage in sustainable water practices.

  • Faculty: Robert Girling (Business)
  • Partners: Michelle Mazeo (North Bay Global Studies), SSU Students for Sustainability, STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System), Join Us Making Progress (JUMP), SSU Recreation Center, Environmental Technology Center
  • Students: BUS 395 Special Studies in Business
  • Results: Hernandez 2016 (Poster 0.5 Mb) - Sustainable water usage in grades K-12.

Graphical user interfaces for non-technical users to explore rainfall, C02, and wildfire data

2015-16: Non-technical staff often have difficulty exploring environmental data sets that allow them to apply available data to current management challenges. Graphical user interfaces (using Matlab) create intuitive interfaces for non-technical users to explore rainfall and fire data.


Comparing and analyzing climates in the upper watershed and alluvial fan of Copeland Creek

2015-16: Rainfall and temperature vary considerably along elevational gradients. The weather station at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve documents conditions near the top of the Sonoma Mountain. This study investigates the optimal location for a weather station at lower elevations on the SSU campus.

  • Faculty: Genevieve Healy (Geography), Eric Edlund (Geography)
  • Partners: Christopher Halle (CEI)
  • Students: GEOG 360 Geomorphology, GEOG 375 Natural Hazards
  • Results: Hopper 2016(Poster 8.5 Mb) - Extending the SSU network of local climatological data with a new weather station

Kyler Connolly and Chris Dennison at weather tower

Automated Sensor Network for Copeland Creek Headwaters

2013-present: The Osborn sensor network gathers data from weather stations, cameras and other sensors and transmits the information to the internet. The automated weather station provides reliable real-time data on the amount of rainfall and other climate variables in the upper watershed. A range of other sensors and coding are part of this sensor network development, including solar power design and installation, real-time displays of data, and new methods, such as backpacks and autonomous vehicles that can be deployed to gather data from watershed sensors.


Philosophy and Ethics of Water Choice

2013-16: One technology that is vital for survival but often goes unquestioned is our use of water and the philosophical, political, and social values that influence the decisions we make. We explore the ethical impacts of water use using a philosophical framework.


Kyler Connolly and Chris Dennison at weather tower

Predicting extreme rainfall in the Copeland Creek watershed

2014-16: California’s highly variable climate and growing water demands pose water-supply and flood-hazard challenges to resource managers. Mathematics students are using local data sets from the weather station at SSU's Osborn Preserve and UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory to evaluate the ability of regional models to predict rainfall in our region.


Development of an Ultrasonic Sensor to Monitor Water Use

2013-16: Monitoring water levels in a tank has always required a physical object of measurement to be submerged and often requires visiting the tank to check levels. We developed a low-cost ultrasonic depth sensor that accurately measures the depth of fluids (water, cooking oil, motor oil) up to four meters and displays the values on a monitor. 

Water Efficiency Projects on the SSU Campus

2014-15: Sonoma State has implemented a variety of water saving measures and technologies on campus, including the use of reclaimed water and low flow fixtures. Environmental and financial costs and benefits of a variety of measures are evaluated.

  • Faculty: Dan Soto (Environmental Studies and Planning)
  • Partners: SSU Facilities

Kyler Connolly and Chris Dennison at weather tower

Power Supply Needs for Off-Grid Sensor Network in the Headwaters of Copeland Creek

2014: The Osborn Sensor Network collects and transmits data from sensors in the Copeland Creek headwatershed. Power needs for newtwork sensors (e.g., weather station, cameras, etc.) must be evaluated to determine the appropriate solar and battery requirements to ensure continuous data streaming. We evaluated the power needs (solar panels and 24V DC batteries) for an offgrid, lowpower wireless camera to be installed overlooking water sources on the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

  • Faculty: Dan Soto (Environmental Studies and Planning)
  • Partners: Center for Environmental Inquiry

Kyler Connolly and Chris Dennison at weather tower

Geodatabase for Sharing Copeland Creek Watershed Data

2013-14: We developed a geodatabase to enhance sharing of data in the Copeland Creek watershed. The Google Map product uses fusion tables to create a clickable data-discovery interface. Users can click on location icons to identify the types of data collected, when they were collected and by whom. When possible, links are provided to on-line data.

  • Faculty: Jeff Baldwin (Geography)

Sencell circuit board

SenCell: A Low-Cost Cellular-Based General-Purpose Real-Time Monitoring System for Rural Areas

2013-14: We created a low-cost, solar-powered, general-purpose remote monitoring system with unique features such as open-source software and in-field configurability.The unit can collect and transmit data from sensors in any location where cell-reception is available. The flexible and modular SenCell architecture allows it to be used for diverse applications, including flood and fire detection, and real-time water quality and air pollution monitoring.

  • Faculty/Staff: Farid Farahmand, Jack Ou and Shahram Marivani (Engineering Science)
  • Partners: Steve Norwick Memorial Fund, CSU Campus as a Living Lab

Low-Cost Irrigation Control Sensors (Smarden Project)

2013-14: We designed a low-cost autonomous garden sensor that can monitor environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, sunlight, and soil moisture) and respond by turning irrigation systems on or off. The system has potential to conserve water use by home gardeners, farmers, or wine growers.

  • Faculty: Farid Farahmand (Engineering Science)
  • Partners: CSU Campus as a Living Lab Grant Program, Steve Norwick Memorial Fund

evapotranspiration diagram

Copeland Creek Watershed Evapotranspiration Project

2012: Evapotranspiration is an important but variable part of the water cycle. To better understand water cycle dynamics in the Copeland Creek watershed, a student research team constructed and installed a sensor network to continuously monitor environmental conditions and tree water loss in the headwaters at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

  • Faculty: Tom Buckley (Biology)