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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 (MESM) students are required to take a minimum of 36 units in their primary specialization.

To complete a specialization, MESM students must take at least 12 units of specialization courses to develop depth, 16 units of electives to develop breadth across technical skills, management, and additional science, and 8 units of other relevant electives (student's choice), including relevant graduate courses and/or a maximum of 8 units of upper-division undergraduate courses.  Courses may not be double-counted to fulfill requirements. For example, a specialization key course may not also count as a technical skill or other elective. 

With an advisor's approval, MESM students may take courses in other UCSB departments as electives to satisfy specialization requirements. To request approval, students should send an email justification to their specialization advisor (a faculty member) and copy Students do not need to request approval to take courses in other departments unless they would like to count that course(s) toward 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 Prerequisite Guide

WRM Specialization Courses (12 units required)

Take at least 4 units:
ESM 226 Groundwater Management (4 units)
ESM 235 Watershed Analysis (4 units)

Take at least 4 units:
ESM 222 Pollution Risk Management (4 units)
ESM 224 Sustainable Water Resources Management (4 units)

Take 4 units:
ESM 225 Water Policy (4 units)

Students must select 16 units of electives to develop breadth from three categories: technical skills, management, and additional science.

If the minimum number of units specified for all three categories is less than 16, then the student must select other relevant courses from technical skills, management, and/or additional science to complete at least 16 units.

Technical Skills (Take at least 4 units)

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)

Management (Take at least 4 units)

ESM 225 Water Policy (4 units)
ESM 229 Economics and Policy of Climate Change (4 units)
ESM 230 Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Ventures (4 units)*
ESM 231 Creating Value through Environmental Solutions (2 units)
ESM 233 Testing Innovation Opportunities and Organizational Readiness (2 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 256B Value Proposition Design for New Environmental Ventures (2 units)
ESM 257 Coastal Marine Policy and Management (4 units)
ESM 277 International Environmental Law (2 units)*
ESM 278 Natural Resources Law and Policy (2 units)*
ESM 279 Financial Management and Environmental Accounting (4 units)
ESM 280 Practical Solutions in Business and Sustainability (2 units)
ESM 281 Advanced Business and Sustainability (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)*
ESM 286 Energy Economics and Markets (4 units)*
ESM 295A Equity and the Environment (2 units)
ESM 295B Advanced Topics in Environmental Justice (2 units)

Additional Science (Take at least 8 units)

ESM 211 Applied Population Ecology (4 units)
ESM 214 Biological Waste Treatment (5 units)*
ESM 219 Microbial Processes in the Environment (5 units)*
ESM 222 Pollution Risk Management (4 units)
ESM 224 Sustainable Water Resources Management (4 units)
ESM 226 Groundwater Management (4 units)
ESM 235 Watershed Analysis (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) Note: ESM 263 GIS is a prerequisite for this course.
ESM 270P Conservation Planning Practicum (4 units)
ESM 282 Pollution Prevention (4 units)
ESM 288 Energy, Technology and the Environment (4 units)

Advanced Special Topics (Optional)

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

Students should consult the respective departments for availability and registration information.

EARTH 266 Chemical Oceanography
EARTH 276 Geological Oceanography
EEMB 142A Aquatic Communities
EEMB 243 Biological Oceanography
EEMB 279 Modeling Environmental and Ecological Change
GEOG 263 Intro to Physical Oceanography

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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