Melissa Rohde

Groundwater Scientist
Freshwater
[email protected]

Melissa provides scientific leadership to the Groundwater Program of The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter using her expertise in biology, hydrology, and water policy to advance sustainable groundwater management. Her research focuses on understanding how Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems function and what conditions are necessary to maintain ecosystem health. Her research is being used to advise policy and management of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.

Prior to working at the Conservancy, Melissa conducted research with the Water in the West program at Stanford University on the costs and benefits associated with groundwater recharge and storage projects in California. She has more than 15 years of international research experience ranging across the fields of paleoclimatology, biogeochemistry, and hydrogeology. She holds an M.S. in Environmental Engineering and Science from Stanford University and an M.S. in Water Science, Policy and Management from Oxford University. In addition to her research, Melissa is an avid educator, having led research expeditions in the Himalayas, Arctic and rural India. You can follow Melissa’s musings on water, climate change, and the environment on her blog: www.reflectionsonwater.org.

What Melissa is working on now:

I’m currently providing guidance to local and state agencies on how to protect groundwater dependent ecosystems under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. In addition, I am researching how practitioners can monitor the health of groundwater dependent ecosystems so that appropriate thresholds and management actions can be established.


Select products

2019 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic multibenefit solutions for global water challenges

Melissa M. Rohde, Mark Reynolds, Jeanette Howard

In this article, the authors provide an example of how dynamic multi-benefit solutions used to provide “pop-up” wetland habitat for migratory birds also replenishing depleted aquifers to create environmental and water supply benefits and broadens it to the global scale. Additionally, this article outlines six…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Cannabis and residential groundwater pumping impacts on streamflow and ecosystems in Northern California

Samuel C. Zipper, Jennifer K. Carah, Christopher Dillis, Tom Gleeson, Ben Kerr, Melissa M. Rohde, Jeanette K. Howard, Julie K.H. Zimmerman

Using a newly developed tool for estimating streamflow depletion from groundwater pumping, this study examined the impacts of ongoing groundwater pumping on streamflow and aquatic ecosystems in the Navarro watershed in rural, coastal California. The study found that common uses of groundwater in the watershed,…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

A Transdisciplinary Approach to Characterize Hydrological Controls on Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystem Health

Melissa M. Rohde, Sara B. Sweet, Craig Ulrich, Jeanette Howard

Groundwater plays an essential role in supporting freshwater species, riparian habitats, and migratory birds. These ecological communities, commonly referred to as groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs), can suffer undesirable impacts from unsustainable pumping practices. This study assessed whether ecosystem health varied with groundwater availability in riparian forests in California’s…


2019 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

Economic Tools to Achieve Groundwater Sustainability for Nature: Two Experimental Case Studies from California

Sandi Matsumoto, Melissa M. Rohde, Sarah Heard

Groundwater is a critical water supply around the world and is increasingly under threat from pumping that exceeds natural replenishment. Successful implementation of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) depends local agencies working with stakeholders to develop plans and implement projects that reduce groundwater use,…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Critical Species LookBook: A compendium of California's threatened and endangered species for sustainable groundwater management

Rohde MM, Seapy B, Rogers R, Castañeda X, editors

Plant and animal species can rely on groundwater directly or indirectly for water, nutrients, and stable temperatures. The Critical Species LookBook is a compendium of 84 state and federally listed species likely to rely on groundwater in California. This document provides groundwater-relevant information for each…


2019 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Rapid and Accurate Estimates of Streamflow Depletion Caused by Groundwater Pumping Using Analytical Depletion Functions

Samuel C. Zipper, Tom Gleeson, Ben Kerr, Jeanette K. Howard, Melissa M. Rohde, Jennifer Carah, Julie Zimmerman

Reductions in streamflow from groundwater pumping can negatively impact water users and aquatic ecosystems but are challenging to estimate due to the time and expertise required to develop numerical models often used in water management. This paper develops a new approach – a combination of…


2019 | Freshwater | Technology | Science | Maps & Webmaps

GDE Pulse: Monitoring Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems with Satellites

Kirk Klausmeyer, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Nathaniel Rindlaub, Tanushree Biswas, Melissa M. Rohde, Jeanette Howard

94,333 unique ecosystems depend on groundwater in California. GDE Pulse lets you see how they have changed over the last 30 years.  Groundwater managers and environmental stakeholders often lack information about the health of critical groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs). To fill this information gap, we…


2018 | Freshwater | Science | Microsite

Groundwater Resource Hub

Sandi Matsumoto, Gregg Werner, Melissa Rohde, Kirk Klausmeyer

Groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) are plant and animal communities that require groundwater to meet some or all of their water needs. GDEs provide important benefits to California including habitat for animals, water supply, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, recreational opportunities and enjoyment of California’s…


2018 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Guidance for Preparing Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Rohde, M.M., S. Matsumoto, J. Howard, S. Liu, L. Riege, E.J. Remson

California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 is landmark legislation that empowers local agencies, known as groundwater sustainability agencies, to sustainably manage groundwater resources for social, economic and environmental benefits. SGMA also includes specific requirements to identify and consider impacts to groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs).…


2017 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A Global Synthesis of Managing Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Under Sustainable Groundwater Policy

Melissa M. Rohde, Ray Froend, Jeanette Howard

Groundwater is a vital water supply worldwide for people and nature. However, species and ecosystems that depend on groundwater for some or all of their water needs, known as groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), are increasingly becoming threatened worldwide. This paper provides an overview of how…




2016 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Benefits and Economic Costs of Managed Aquifer Recharge in California

Debra Perrone, Melissa M. Rohde

Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) projects can play an important role in ensuring California manages its groundwater sustainably. This study, the first to investigate the benefits and economic costs of MAR projects in the state, found California MAR projects to be a cost-effective storage strategy, exhibit a…


2016 | Freshwater | Maps & Webmaps

How and Where Nature Uses Groundwater

Kirk Klausmeyer, Jeanette Howard, Sandi Matsumoto, Sally Liu, Melissa Rohde

Groundwater is essential to the health and viability of plants, animals and ecosystems. Many tree species, like willows and cottonwoods, rely on groundwater to survive seasonal and annual dry spells. Fish and other aquatic life need groundwater to keep rivers flowing. When unsustainable management causes groundwater levels…