October 2009 newsletter

CITRIS "shortens the pipeline" between world-class laboratory research in science and engineering and the creation of startups, companies, and whole industries. By engaging business, economics, law, and public policy at the outset of projects, we accelerate and amplify the impact of research that addresses California's most pressing challenges.

Dear Friends of CITRIS,

Here in California, we go to the sink, turn the handle, and clean water flows. Every time. It seems simple. But it is not.

Last year, my family’s little cottage temporarily lost its water supply. The water flowing from the natural spring near our house was apparently not up to the county's code and suddenly, what had been simple became complex and time-consuming. Even after the neighbors had come together to dig a new well—and reaching consensus on the location and depth of that well was no easy task —we had to monitor the chemical levels twice a day. Too much chlorine and the water irritated our daughter’s skin. One neighbor thought the recommended chlorine level could cause her other health problems. But too little chlorine, other neighbors pointed out, exposed us to bacterial invasions. Each party had his or her own set of concerns.

Multiply my little domestic water crisis by a couple of million and you get a glimpse of the technical and political complexities of California’s water management challenges. In fact, that 36 million of us live in this largely arid state is a testament to our predecessors’ pluck and ingenuity.

But Californians have never been fond of limits, even those imposed by finite natural resources.  Our modus operandi has been to innovate around, or through, or over, what might appear to less ambitious sorts as an immovable object. For instance; the California State Water Project (CSWP), built in the 1950s, takes water out of the Sacramento River Delta and pumps it hundreds of miles south and then over a mountain range to provide water to San Joaquin Valley farms and drinking water to about 23 million people; it is the largest publicly built and operated water system on Earth.

But as the state’s population rises (projected at 55 Million by 2050), even the CSWP and the Central Valley Project, the state’s other gargantuan water system, cannot store and deliver enough water to quench our thirst. And it is not only the state’s agriculture, industry, and human residents who are threatened by water shortages. Much of California’s wildlife is also being left high and dry.

CITRIS takes this crisis very seriously and on all of our campuses, researchers are working hard to innovate solutions to California’s serious and intensifying water crisis.

The stories in this issue of the newsletter reflect our interest in and dedication to addressing the crisis by employing new modes of monitoring and analysis as well as ways to conserve and improve water quality. And as we have seen time and again, innovations that work first in California are adopted across the nation and around the world.

Professor Andrew Fisher’s work at UC Santa Cruz seeks local storage and water processing solutions through the employment of ground water recharge. Each year we overdraft our groundwater by millions of acre-feet causing water quality problems, intrusion of saltwater and other contaminants into groundwater, and even ground subsidence in some places. But more importantly, the practice of over drafting is simply not sustainable. We cannot keep taking from the aquifers; the supply is limited. Fisher’s project diverts water, in times of abundant supply, into natural aquifers for storage. This not only employs the free space made available by our past sins of overuse, it also can significantly improve the quality of the water reintroduced and stored there.

Jay Lund’s excellent team at the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis continues to develop models of the complexities of the state’s mammoth water systems. As the need to precisely manage flows and to make data-driven decisions intensifies, so does the need to precisely evaluate capacity and guide distribution throughout the system.  CALVIN, the computer modeling program developed by Lund and his group, does exactly that.

Because of work like Lund’s and Fisher’s, and the excellent work at the CITRIS-seeded Berkeley Water Center, when my daughter turns on our faucet twenty years from now, it will still be safe to assume that clean clear water will flow forth. As for me, a dose of gratitude and awe will flow as well.  

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Paul K. Wright
Director, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society

i4energy Seminar Series, Fall 2009 is online
The complete schedule for the new energy seminar series at CITRIS is online at http://www.citris-uc.org/events/i4e-fall2009. These talks take place every Friday at noon, are webcast, and showcase developments in information technology systems that can assist significant energy and cost savings.

CITRIS Distinguished Talk: Former CTO, CEO & President of Samsung Electronics
Dr. Chang-Gyu Hwang, former CTO, CEO & President of Samsung Electronics, presents future prospects of the new industries created by convergence of technologies in his lecture: "Ready for the Future?"  Tuesday, October 20 at 4:00pm, Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley.

Accelerator-based computing and Manycore
NERSC, LBNL and CITRIS announce an international conference on the role of emerging many-core architectures in science and technology. The focus of the conference is to introduce, explore and discuss the scope and challenges of harnessing the full potential of these novel architectures for high performance computing, especially in Physics and Astronomy.

Three New Videos Highlight CITRIS Research
Three videos highlight some of the research taking place at CITRIS. The videos show research successes with three projects: CellScope, Mobile Millennium, and smart thermostats.