Fernanda Jeffers

Scholarship Status: Awarded 1st Place
Scholarship Awarded: Best Environmental and Water Resources Scholarship
University: UCI
Date of Graduation: July 2017


Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil allowed me to see different ways of living. In 2002 I met some great people while I was volunteering as a tutor in a public school helping teenagers finish high school, and I worked as a volunteer for a couple of years in a group that provided free nutrition consultation to low income families, and with underweight children facing deadly health risks, in Nova Iguaçu, a city and county of the Greater Rio de Janeiro area. The lack of garbage disposal service and wastewater treatment resulted in polluted water for the community, and the transmission of several diseases, directly affecting the families there. Those families do not have access to potable water, and providing them potable water access is essential indeed to their quality of life. At this point I knew I wanted to go for a civil engineering degree, water specialization. The area that interests me the most involves water access, particularly the drought, and the effects of climate change in the coastal area. I transferred to University of California, Irvine (UCI) last fall. I enjoyed taking the class intro to engineering computer programming, MATLAB. I was introduced to computer modeling and its application in water resources management. It was there that it suddenly clicked with some of my significant childhood experiences. As a child, my parents moved from the small city of Ceará to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to overcome hardships from the lack of water access in their hometown. As a UCI student I was given the opportunity to join a research group under Professor Jasper Vrugt during winter quarter. I worked under the advisement of PhD student Elias Massoud, and I used computer-modeling software to map ground water depletion in Central Valley, California to monitor drought. The MATLAB model I constructed generates groundwater depletion trends that are validated against United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data. This model reconfirms the fact that the drought is in imminent occurrence. Furthermore, during spring quarter, I joined Professor Kristen Davis research group, where I had to use Matlab to analyze temperature data collected by Professor Davis. This project is still going, and I believe this coming quarter I will be more involved with data analysis. The goal is to learn about ocean processes and near shore ecosystems. I am learning how pollutants and organisms interact and I intent to relate this knowledge with how this result will affect us. I also had the opportunity to approach the drought in a different angle. This summer, I completed a Matlab project, which considered how reducing urban water demand and agricultural water demand in the Central Valley and implementing low impact developments in South California can positively impact the drought the State is experiencing. The outcome was very promising. The code used the water demands and supplies from 2010, and it projected them until 2030. The table below represents the fresh water supplies and demands in Million Acre-Foot (MAF) when no measure is taken, and when demands are reduced and supplies include low impact development. Table 1. Fresh Water Supply and Demand from 2010 – 2030 in 2 Scenarios No Reduction/no LIDs (years from 2010 – 2030) Reductions + LIDs (years from 2010 – 2030) Urban Water Demand 21.93MAF 19.05 MAF Agricultural Water Demand 359.80 MAF 350.36 MAF Fresh Water Supplies 28.90 MAF 29.30 MAF The total water saved when the urban and agricultural water demands were reduced 25% and 5% respectively, and when the LIDs were implemented was equal to 16.5228 MAF by 2030, whereas before there was no water surplus. All the water supply was being consumed. This water surplus represents 57.17 percent of the water supply existent when no measure was applied. All the research projects in which I have been involved, prioritizes water access. I believe this should be considered for everyone working in water resources. I am building skills and expertise that can help the community in managing their water access, in order to maintain their health and welfare. It can be fighting the drought we are currently experiencing, or making rivers and lakes potable for consumption, or making the oceans safe for the environment. My goal is to prioritize that the water will go back to the water cycle, in a safe way, and water access will be achievable for everyone.

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