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Faculty Water Cohort expands, diversifies Fresno State’s water connection

Our Aim

The mission of the Fresno State Interdisciplinary Water Cohort is to engage the campus and community in discussions and activities to build awareness and develop understanding of water issues and challenges – in order to incite action, address issues, and collaborate to construct water solutions for the Central Valley and worldwide.


For more than a century, water has been a cornerstone of Fresno State’s connection with the San Joaquin Valley. With the advent of the Water Cohort, the university is taking its investigation of this life-sustaining resource to a higher level.

Fresno State was “baptized in water” – founded as the Fresno State Normal School in 1911 to train teachers to teach the children of farmers and others who migrated to the Valley in the late 19th century. Many of the newcomers were attracted by the free flow of water running down from the Sierra Nevada snowpack. The school quickly expanded its teacher education curriculum, adding courses about the region’s No. 1 economic driver – farming – and its driving force – water.

Fresno State is now a world center of water. Partnering with industry and government agencies, Fresno State faculty, students and staff study water quality, conservation, delivery systems, supply development, recycling, drought-tolerant crops, and incorporating new technologies (satellite, infrared and computer).

The campus houses the Center for irrigation Technology (CIT), the International Center for Water Technology (ICWT) and the Water and Energy Technology (WET) Center. The university also is a partner in Blue Tech Valley – an ambitious initiative to create a Silicon Valley-like hub of water research and development.

“Campus-based research addresses a wide range of local issues, including water use efficiency in agriculture and urban settings, integrated regional water management planning and water needs of disadvantaged communities,” stated David Zoldoske, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology and water policy adviser for the California State’s University system.

Fresno State is the lead organization for CSU Water Resources Policy Initiatives, bringing together expertise from the 23 CSU campuses to focus on solutions for California water challenges and training students to be the water problem solvers going forward.

Appointment of cohort members

Because water is a multifaceted topic that involves a broad spectrum of curricula, Fresno State established an eight-member faculty cohort to bring their expertise in science, engineering, education, geography, business, public health and journalism.

The first appointments to the water cohort were for the 2012-13 academic year, for research led by faculty from the following departments:

  • Plant Science, with a specialization in irrigation and water management.
  • Civil and Geomatics Engineering, with a specialization in hydraulics, water resources and environmental engineering.
  • Earth and Environmental Science, with a specialization in hydrogeology.
  • Curriculum and Instruction, with a specialization in science education of water delivery, quality monitoring, wastewater treatment, irrigation, and the cultural impact of water quality and availability.
  • Mass Communications and Journalism, with an interest in environmental media production and journalism.

Additional cohort appointments in the 2013-15 academic year included faculty from these departments:

  • Henry Madden Library, specializing in library technology and digital initiatives.
  • Public Health, specializing in water quality and community health.


Financial support for the cohort

The faculty Water Cohort became reality in 2012 with a $300,000 research fund gift from Claude Laval, a water filtration entrepreneur, longtime Fresno State benefactor and partner in water research. The Claude Laval Water Research Fund provides faculty with start-up funding for research projects. This funding also gives Fresno State additional attraction in recruiting distinguished faculty.

Laval founded the Claude Laval Corporation and LAKOS Separators and Filtration Systems. For more than 30 years the Fresno-based companies have provided innovative and adaptable solutions for specific filtration issues. LAKOS is a world leader in the water filtration industry.

Many of the products offered by the companies were invented by Laval’s father, Claude C. Laval Jr. In 1984 Laval honored his father’s legacy by establishing the Claude C. Laval Jr. Award for Innovative Technology and Research at Fresno State.

Laval’s support for and advice to Fresno State on water and irrigation over the years was recognized by the naming of the Claude Laval Water and Energy Technology Incubator (WET Center) on campus in partnership with the Central Valley Business Incubator. The WET Center is a vital resource for innovative local entrepreneurs looking to establish or expand their business in water and energy technology and help stimulate the regional economy.