Sustainability of Freshwater Resources in the United States

Principal Investigator(s): 

John Sabo, Laura Bowling, Gerrit Schoups


Credit: California Department of Water Resources


There are over 75,000 large dams on rivers in the United States alone. The goal of this project is to measure the ecological ‘footprint' of these dams in watersheds across the lower 48 states in the U.S.

We will define this footprint in terms of the effect dams have had on:

1.) water quantity and quality
2.) the number of native and non-native species in rivers
3.) the salinity of soils in productive agricultural areas
4.) the demand for irrigated water by the 100 largest cities in the U.S.

Additionally, we will use information from global climate change models and other models that describe how water moves across landscapes to develop sustainable solutions to water shortages that consider water for cities, farms and biodiversity conservation. The research will prepare us for a final workshop in which noted popular press authors and policy makers are invited to write an opinion piece for The New York Times. This article will comment on the state of U.S. freshwater infrastructure (based on our scientific work), and propose a policy platform for freshwater sustainability in the U.S.

Media coverage of this group's research findings.

More information about this research project, participants, and publications.


This work is supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California.