The Watershed Academics to Enhance Regional Sustainability (WATERS) Collaborative is an innovative program that engages faculty and students in projects that address regional watershed management issues.

Coordinated by Sonoma State’s Center for Environmental Inquiry, WATERS provides financial support and connections for faculty to engage their students in open-ended, real-world projects. Every year, WATERS engages 380 students in multidisciplinary study with faculty from 12 departments in three schools.

Funds are provided to faculty to support integration of watershed topics into existing courses. Students undertake this watershed-related coursework, internships, and graduate research. Results from cumulative student projects are presented to community partners during end-of-year symposia.

Now in its fourth year, WATERS is funded by the Sonoma County Water Agency contract with the Center for Environmental Inquiry. Also involved are Cal State Monterey Bay, the UC Davis Bodega Marine Reserve, multiple cities, nonprofit organizations, consultants, and utility companies.

“Students coming out of Sonoma State now have a skill set that is above and beyond some of the other skill sets I’ve seen coming out of other schools,” notes Keenan Foster of the Sonoma County Water Agency. “The professional experience they’re getting really gives them a leg up in being able to get a job in this competitive marketplace.”