SEI Senior Scientist Charles Young and Stantec Principal Engineer Andy Draper received the prestigious Hugo B. Fischer Award this week for their work on an unprecedented water model of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The Fischer Award – presented annually by the California Water and Environmental Modeling Forum – recognizes professionals for the development or innovative application of a computer model and the effective use of such models in planning or regulatory functions.

Young and Draper won the award for the Sacramento Water Allocation Model (SacWAM) and its contribution to California’s efforts to create new policies on in-stream flows – or water that flows in rivers. The model was created in SEI’s Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) system; it enables users to see both the current operation of the Delta’s water system, and how water would flow if there were no dams, diversions or infrastructure.

SEI Senior Scientist Charles Young and Stantec Principal Engineer Andy Draper receive the Fisher Award at the California Water and Environmental Modeling Forum. Photo: Stacy Tanaka

“I am very honored to receive this award from CWEMF on behalf our entire model development team.  It’s great recognition for the hard work our team has done over the past 5 years,” said Young, who is part of the SEI US Water Program. “This model also illustrates the power of the WEAP software in simulating one of the most complex water resources systems on the planet.”

The Delta is one of the largest estuaries in the United States, and serves as a habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife. It is also the hub of California’s water system, providing water to 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland.

The State Water Resources Control Board is using SacWAM to assess potential revisions to regulations of the water system, weighing the trade-offs as it aims to strike the right balance between protection of ecosystems and water for Californians and agriculture. The model allows the Board to estimate the flow of the River under a range of regulatory options, and to see the effects of those various options on agriculture, water supply and fisheries, among other things.

“This is a great recognition of Chuck’s perseverance. During the award ceremony, it was clear that SacWAM is providing a transparent platform that connects the system schematic with its algorithms and that represents a complex allocation priority structure,” said Marisa Escobar, the SEI US Water Program Director. “This is shifting the paradigm in terms of providing the State Water Resources Control Board with a tool to assess changes in regulations.”

Escobar continued: “This award marks what we have achieved so far, but it also inspires us to engage with stakeholders in their effort to balance water needs for ecosystems, cities and agriculture and to continue advancing WEAP’s capabilities to address evermore complex water challenges.”