Campus: Fresno State -- January 25, 2006

California Water Institute On 'Fingerprinting' Mission

The California Water Institute (CWI), which is based at California State University, Fresno, is using high-tech fingerprinting to help address one of California's biggest growth challenges: managing ever-increasing demand for the planet's most precious resource - water.

CWI was founded to be a forum for unbiased, open, collaborative discussion, research and education on water-related issues benefiting the entire state. With voter approval of Proposition 13, a $2 billion water bond measure in 2000 co-authored by State Sen. Jim Costa (now a member of Congress) and Assembly member Mike Machado, $3 million in start-up funds was made available for the institute.

CWI has laboratories to conduct technical research to assist California in answering critical questions and issues related to water supply and quality. Fresno State students get an opportunity to be at the forefront of this technology and increasingly important research.

"This is an excellent example of how our university can help the community address really critical issues not only in the San Joaquin Valley, but in the world," said Dr. John Suen, a professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Fresno State and chief of hydrogeology at CWI.

Suen participates in a research group working with a special facility to analyze isotope tracers in water. His research interest focuses primarily on groundwater in agricultural environments in the San Joaquin Valley.

Isotope hydrology is like "fingerprinting" that traces the source of water. It's a very important tool to determine recharge areas, origin, quantity, flow directions and the fate of groundwater. By studying isotopes and learning about water, scientists gather vital information about distribution and availability of groundwater in areas such as the Sierra foothills, where potential development is dependent on finding a reliable water supply.

Isotope studies have been going on for a long time, but only recently have they been tied to water resource. Due to enhanced instruments and a better understanding of hydrology, researchers are able to apply findings the region's water needs.

Each day, the United States uses about 350 billion gallons of fresh water. Water needs, especially in California, are continually increasing for urban, environmental, agricultural and recreational uses. In Fresno County, the economy is enormously depending on water, but is in a semi-desert setting.

Having the water to sustain economic development throughout the San Joaquin Valley is a key goal of research efforts by CWI. If you would like more information, please go to:

Contact: Shirley Melikian Armbruster, (559) 278-5292 or (559) 593-1815

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