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Water Resources Management

Specialization Advisor(s)

Fresh waters are life-sustaining natural resources, critical to domestic water security, manufacturing and agriculture. Successfully managing water resources requires ensuring reliable quantities of acceptable-quality water while simultaneously maintaining or restoring the healthy ecosystems.

Beyond its direct importance as a resource, water is central to many environmental problems. Solving these problems requires understanding connections between the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater and processes controlling fate and transport of chemicals and nutrients. 

Water Resources Management (WRM) students in the Master of Environmental Science and Management program study hydrologic and biogeochemical processes in watersheds and receiving water bodies. You will be trained to understand the economics of natural resources, policies, laws, and regulations related to water resources and their stewardship. WRM students learn GIS tools, remote sensing, spatial data analysis, and modeling, among other relevant analytical techniques.

River flows by trees and Yosemite mountains


Master of Environmental Science and Management students are required to take a minimum of 36 units of electives in their primary specialization. With an advisor’s approval, Bren students may also take courses in other UCSB departments as electives to satisfy specialization requirements. 

ESM courses are offered through the Bren School and most ESM courses are offered every year. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) will be offered every other year. 


WRM Specialization Courses (12 units required)

ESM 225  Water Policy (4 units)
ESM 235  Watershed Analysis (4 units)

At least 4 units of coursework in water quality:
ESM 222  Pollution Risk Management (4 units)
ESM 224  Sustainable Water Resources Management (4 units)

Technical Skills (8 units required)

ESM 212  Biological Community Survey & Analysis (4 units)
ESM 228  Monitoring and Evaluation (4 units)
ESM 232  Environmental Modeling (4 units)
ESM 244  Advanced Data Analysis (4 units)
ESM 262  Computing for Environmental Science and Management (2 units)
ESM 263  Geographic Information Systems (4 units)
ESM 269  Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units)
ESM 271  Carbon Footprints and Carbon Accounting (4 units)
ESM 273  Life Cycle Assessment (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)
ESM 287 Energy Demand Analysis (4 units)

Environmental Economics, Policy, and Law (4 units required)

ESM 229  Economics and Policy of Climate Change (4 units)
ESM 242  Natural Resource Economics (4 units)
ESM 243  Environmental Policy Analysis (4 units)
ESM 245  Cost Benefit Analysis (4 units)
ESM 248  Environmental Institutions (4 units)
ESM 257  Coastal Ocean Policy and Management (4 units)
ESM 277  International Environmental Law (2 units)*
ESM 278  Natural Resources Law and Policy (2 units)*

Environmental Management (recommended)

ESM 230  Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Ventures (4 units)*
ESM 279  Financial Management and Environmental Accounting (4 units)
ESM 281  Corporate Environmental Management (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)

Additional Science (8 units required)

ESM 211  Applied Population Ecology (4 units)
ESM 214  Biological Waste Treatment (4 units)*
ESM 215  Landscape Ecology (4 units)
ESM 219  Microbial Processes in the Environment (4 units)*
ESM 226  Groundwater Management (4 units)
ESM 237  Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (4 units)
ESM 239  Advanced Climate Science for Policymakers (4 units)*
ESM 240  Climate Change Biology (2 units)*
ESM 254  Coastal Marine Ecosystem Processes (4 units)
ESM 260  Applied Marine Ecology (4 units)
ESM 270  Conservation Planning & Priority Setting (4 units)
ESM 270P  Conservation Planning Practicum (4 units)
ESM 282  Pollution Prevention (4 units)
ESM 288  Energy, Technology and the Environment (4 units)
Or fill in relevant science course from other UCSB department

Advanced Special Topics (recommended)

Advanced Special Topics courses (variable units) are typically taught by Visiting Professors and Lecturers and may be offered during any quarter of the academic year.

ESM 293  Advanced Special Topics in Climate and Energy
ESM 294  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Law
ESM 296  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Management
ESM 297  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Policy
ESM 299  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Science
ESM 430  Workshops in Environmental Science and Management

Relevant Courses in other UCSB departments

EARTH 269  Tracer and Contaminant Hydrology 

Internship Opportunities

Students gain experience in an industry or sector relevant to career goals through a summer internship. WRM students have taken internships with a wide variety of organizations, including the Aquatic Network, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, Envicom Corporation, International Water Engineering Center, Global Environment Facility, American Fisheries Society, USGS Water Resources, World Water Conservation.Com, and many other agencies, organizations, and companies.

Research & Special Projects

Students may participate in research directed by Bren faculty through one of the many interdisciplinary research groups at UCSB. 

Woman sits on rock by river with happy expression

Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, sign up for an admissions webinar, or start your application today.

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