June 25, 2015

Contact: Katie VanMeter
805-756-1216; kvanmete@calpoly.edu

Cal Poly Student’s Water Crisis Forecast Research Takes First at Competition

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly anthropology and geography student Mike Johnson took first place in the California Geographical Society’s Geosystems Award competition for his research project “Developing a Decision-Support System for Forecasting Future Water Availability in California.”

The award recognizes the best physical geography paper in undergraduate and graduate categories. Johnson won the undergraduate award.

Johnson’s project examines how the supply and demand of water changes through time and the risks these changes pose to human populations.

“I began the project in response to the California water crisis and the lack of tangible information regarding the extent and severity of the water supply,” Johnson said. “Water resource decisions are predominantly made by trial and error rather than using analytical data, resulting in water policy that is reactive rather than proactive.”

The study integrated interdisciplinary methods to better understand California water availability through a computer-generated model that quantifies supply levels. Accounting for a variety of factors, the tool incorporates land cover, climate data and population trends, among others.

Johnson’s model can be used to shape water resource policy relevant to specific areas.

“With this modeling tool, new policy regarding future conservation and infrastructure improvements can be appropriate and responsive to a specific area, in contrast to current wide-reaching policy, such as Gov. Brown’s recent across-the-board efforts to reduce water use statewide by 20 percent.”

The project was presented at the California Geographical Society’s 69th annual conference, held at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. The conference celebrates the work of young scholars, professors and professionals in the field of geography. This year’s conference attracted about 300 attendees from a variety of community colleges, University of California and California State University campuses, and several out-of-state universities. 

- California Geographical Society: www.calgeog.org  
- Social Sciences Department: www.cla.calpoly.edu/socs.html
- College of Liberal Arts: www.cla.calpoly.edu/   

About the Cal Poly Social Sciences Department
At Cal Poly, the Social Sciences Department focuses on practical training and critical thinking skills. The department offers degrees in anthropology-geography and sociology, with the opportunity to concentrate in a specific focus area. Students are taught to bridge the gap between classroom learning and the real world through internships, study abroad opportunities, service learning, and senior projects.

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