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Water Science & Policy


M. Goslin

The study of Water Science & Policy is a new focus area for this department, reflecting the breadth of research and teaching in these subjects. This also reflects a burgeoning recognition of how water operates in people’s daily lives, whether they are in Eugene or Mexico City, and in international context, such as the hydropolitics of the Jordan River in the Middle East. New and innovative research examining river dynamics, including how land management systems can effect stream flow, which can severely influence erosion and flooding, is reflected in our courses and fieldwork of faculty. Water is a universal human need, and the politics and ecologies of management will be at the forefront of the international agenda in the 21st Century.

Faculty research includes:

  • Human responses to historic floods and the ability of rivers to regenerate fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest (McDowell and Marcus)
  • The political ecology of water governance and urban slums in Mexico (Meehan)
  • Developing river channel restoration objectives through detailed studies of channel morphology (McDowell)
  • Quantifying the riverscape through new remote sensing technology (Fonstad, Marcus)

    M. Goslin

    M. Goslin

M. Fonstad

M. Fonstad

What kinds of jobs might a focus in Water Science & Policy prepare you for?

These courses focus on developing skills in understanding the ecological, geomorphic, political and economic processes that influence how rivers are used, managed, and disputed. A spatial perspective on water will allow you to understand how these processes play out in different places and under different river ecologies and management regimes. You will develop an understanding of multiple concepts from how land use can affect sediment transport and salmon survival to the impacts of dams on rivers, especially in the light of a movement to remove dams from rivers throughout the US West. You will also develop an understanding of how governance systems influence how people use (and abuse) water both in the US and abroad, and engage in a critical look at how water, a resource all people rely upon, is manipulated by economic systems, development, and international relations.

More specifically, people with a focus in water science and policy might look for jobs that look at river systems or development in both national and international contexts, including:

  • Design plans to restore river systems;
  • Manage state (or city) water programs;
  • Mediate between stakeholder groups utilizing water resources;
  • Develop plans for water disasters, such as flooding or oil spills;
  • Water quality monitoring
  • Work for a development agency on encouraging local water systems;
  • Research culturally an socially appropriate sanitation practices;
  • Conduct feasibility studies for proposed water development projects;
  • And more!

Some jobs titles include:

Water Programs Manager
Restoration Ecologist
Flood Control Planner
Oil Spill Contingency Plan Compliance Specialist
Water Resource Specialist
Project Manager for international projects
Infrastructure Advisor

Check out the Jobs for Geographers page for a few examples of current jobs and resources to search for many more!

If you have more questions about what you can do with a focus in Water Science & Policy, contact Dr Leslie McLees, the Undergraduate Coordinator & Advisor at


Note: Occasionally GEOG 410 is also offered as a course that would count towards the Environmental Systems Concentration. Check the Course Offerings (the “pink sheet”) or email the Undergraduate Advisor at to clarify. 

GEOG 360. Watershed Science and Policy. 4 Credits.
Physical and biological processes of watersheds; problems of land use, water quality, riparian zones, aquatic ecology; scientific basis of watershed management and policy. Special fee. McDowell.
Prereq: GEOG 141, or GEOL 102 or 202, or BI 130 or 213.

GEOG 425. Hydrology and Water Resources. 4 Credits.
Emphasis on surface water including precipitation, evapotranspiration, surface runoff, and stream flow. Understanding and analysis of processes. Management for water supply and quality. Special fee. Fonstad.
Prereq: GEOG 321 or 322; MATH 111.

GEOG 427. Fluvial Geomorphology. 4 Credits.
Hydraulics and hydrology of stream channels; channel morphology and processes; drainage network development; fluvial deposits and landforms; field and analytical methods. Required field trips. Special fee. McDowell.
Prereq: MATH 112; one from GEOG 322, GEOG 425, GEOL 334.

GEOG 432. Climatological Aspects of Global Change. 4 Credits.
Role of the climate system in global change, the Earth’s climatic history, and potential future climatic changes. Bartlein.
Prereq: GEOG 321, 322, or 323.

GEOG 467. International Water Policy. 4 Credits.
Examines problems in water policy and governance in a global context. Draws on interdisciplinary perspectives, compares case studies, and analyzes institutions. Meehan.