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Hydrology and Restoring Ecosystems

Hydrology and Restoring Ecosystems: Applications in Engineering and Earth Sciences

By Julia McKeag, MSS Intern, Terra Linda High School

We are water. Well, anywhere from sixty to eighty percent of our body anyway. We may be mostly water, however, our body still requires a daily intake of this substance. Not saltwater, not marsh water, not swamp water, not muddy water, not vitamin water, but clean, fresh, water. This need has been known since the beginning of time, an instinct stored within the very fiber of human being, and has resulted in many conflicts.
One of history’s famous “water wars” occurred between the farmers and ranchers of Owens Valley and the City of Los Angeles. In the 1800s, when Los Angeles outgrew its local water supply, the city searched for a new source of water. The mayor of Los Angeles, Fred Eaton, suggested that water from the Owens Valley could be diverted by aqueduct to Los Angeles. Owens Valley, a once fertile agricultural environment, supported various species of migrating birds, farms, and businesses. Naturally, Owens Valley inhabitants were outraged when their once fecund valley dried up into a second Mojave. The balance between the need for water, and the preservation of environment and agriculture was not reached, leaving some discouraged and many angered. 
This is where the study of hydrology comes into place. The field of hydrology not only concerns the sciences, but also the environment, politics, and public health. We have genius engineers and inventors, such as Archimedes and Louis Pasteur to thank for making modern society possible. However, the job of a true hydrologist requires more than engineering skills. Rachel Z. Kamman, a consulting hydrologist at Kamman Hydrology & Engineering, not only holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Lafayette College, but also an M. Eng., in Hydraulics, Coastal Engineering, Hydrology and Geomorphology from UC Berkeley.
The work of Kamman Hydrology and Engineering (KHE) focuses mainly on ecological habitat restoration, and revolves around projects involving fishery, wetlands, and riparian habitats. KHE has projects throughout California, most of which are on public land. In the words of Ms.Kamman, “We can not turn back time, (so) KHE works to understand how the landscape has changed and how best to improve, restore or protect ecological communities in the context of people and their infrastructure. Since water is fundamental to nature, understanding the landscape in terms of hydrology is a logical starting point for both evaluating the impacts of change and restoring ecological function.”
Ms. Kamman believes that one of the biggest problems affecting local watersheds is that people are disconnected from their environment. If people don’t realize that their actions are directly linked to the health of a local watershed, people won’t think twice about what goes into the storm drain. Fertilizers, Paint, and Soap are all deposited directly into the nearest creek or bay when vacuumed into a storm drain. 
Overall, the work hydrologists such as Rachel Z. Kamman is crucial to the structure and function of our society today, and a healthy watershed is critical to a healthy and functioning community. Without advances in hydrology and engineering, our society would be eons behind what it is today.

Written By: Julia McKeag

Marin Science Seminar
with Rachel Z. Kamman, P.E.

Upcoming Seminar: Wednesday February 7, 2012 from 7:30 to 8:30
Terra Linda Highschool, Room 207
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