Out West student blog

Managing Water Resources in Times of Severe Drought

Mo Sodwatana PhD '25
Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand
Energy Resources Engineering
Intern, Department of Water Resources

Why did you want to do this internship?

When I saw an internship opening at the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), I knew immediately that I had to apply. I was intrigued by the projects at DWR’s Power and Risk Office, which ranged from balancing the demands of water and energy supply to forecasting the operations of water delivery at the state level. Coming from a civil engineering background, I’ve always been fascinated by large-scale projects; combined with my future plan to work on energy systems optimization, I was convinced I had found the right place for me to work this summer.

How does your role support the host organization’s mission?

DWR’s mission is to sustainably manage California’s water resources to benefit the people while also protecting and restoring the environment. Within that, the State Water Project (SWP) is a water storage and delivery system that provides water to over 27 million people. My role is focused on understanding how climate change and the shifting energy landscape will impact the SWP’s operations.

Describe one project you will be working on this summer.

I’m currently working to model the potential effects of climate change, such as lower-than-normal lake elevations, on the pumped hydro storage operations at Oroville Dam. Drawing from historical data and price forecasts, I’m able to examine the economic and operational impacts of such changes. My other project revolves around battery energy storage and physical reservoir storage and their role in decoupling and load shifting systems. For pumping stations, it is favorable to operate when the electricity market price is low; meanwhile for generating stations, the opposite is true. Because the SWP is an interconnected network that utilizes electricity to pump water uphill and generates electricity as water travels downhill, it is economically optimal to either unlink or shift the system’s load so that the pumping and generating periods are not dependent on one another.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

Upon graduation, I see myself working at the intersection of energy, technology, and policy. Given the fast-evolving energy landscape with the introduction of renewable energy and battery storage, I find this an exciting field to be in. At DWR and with my projects, I am at the forefront of this changing landscape as policies implemented on the federal and state level can have direct impacts on SWP systems operations.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I enjoy outdoor activities; whether it be kayaking in Moss Landing or camping in one of the great national parks, there are so many amazing opportunities here in California. I also enjoy exploring San Francisco and trying out the diverse food scene in the Bay Area. In my down time, I like to read and I’m currently reading Trevor Noah’s autobiographical book, "Born a Crime".

 

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

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