David Lewis, one of the principal designers of a monitoring system that is helping North Coast rangeland landowners meet tough water quality guidelines, has been hired as a regional watershed management advisor by the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Lewis will play a key educational role working with ranchers, farmers, other landowners, watershed groups and public agencies to implement conservation practices that ensure water quality. His territory includes Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties, with an initial emphasis on the Russian River watershed.
"This is the first time in California that Cooperative Extension has hired an advisor specifically to take an issue-oriented approach," said Kim Rodrigues, director of the county Cooperative Extension programs in the North Coast and Mountain Region. "However, natural resources issues must be addressed on a watershed scale and the Russian River, with its abundance of water-related issues -- wildland conversion, endangered species, sedimentation -- is a necessary place to start."
Lewis and other UC scientists developed a water quality monitoring system that helps land managers pinpoint potential nonpoint source pollution problems, such as gully erosion, and to devise methods of mitigating them. The "Sediment TMDL Inventory and Monitoring Worksheet" is now an integral part of UC's Ranch Water Quality Planning Short Course offered to help ranchers and other land users get in compliance with state and federal law.
Lewis first became familiar with extension work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa. From 1989 to 1991 he worked with rural African farmers on soil conservation and water harvesting efforts to increase grain production in dryland farming systems. "Through this experience I learned first-hand the valuable link that extension provides between land use managers and education and research institutions," he said.
He earned a bachelor's degree (1989) in geology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and worked as a staff geologist for an environmental consulting firm in Contra Costa County (1991-1993). Lewis earned his masters degree (1999) studying water quality and quantity measurements in a California oak woodland watershed at the UC Sierra Research and Extension Center.
"Water quality and quantity are vital to all communities," he says. "This new watershed management advisor position is an exciting opportunity for the University to take a more active role integrating resource conservation with resource use viability. We can implement new techniques that will help landowners and managers address water quality concerns in a cost-effective manner."