Water, Environmental, & Ecosystems Division (8200)

Division Chief:  Kurt Wille (kwille@usbr.gov; 303-445-2285)

The Water, Environmental, & Ecosystems Division has approximately 95 employees who provide integrated technical expertise in: 1) Applied Hydrology, 2) Sedimentation & River Hydraulics, 3) Geographic Applications & Analysis, 4) Economic Analysis, 5) Technical Communications, and 6) Fisheries & Wildlife Resources.

Applied Hydrology 1 and 2 (8210, 8211)

Group Managers:
8210—Jade Soddell (jsoddell@usbr.gov; 303-445-2538)
8211—Ian Ferguson (iferguson@usbr.gov; 303-445 2513)

The Applied Hydrology Groups cohesively manage four water resources portfolios that include: (1) hydroclimate data analysis, (2) hydrologic modeling, (3) operations modeling, and (4) flood hydrology and meteorology. The groups provide hydrologic engineering technical services to decision makers on water resources planning and management, including reservoir and river system operations, climate change impacts on water supply and demand, surface water and ground water modeling, crop irrigation water requirements, watershed hydrology, and water conservation planning. The groups provide technical investigations, designs, reviews, and related work in flood hydrology, hydrometeorology, and meteorology. The professional staff includes civil engineers (hydrologic), meteorologists, and physical scientists with technical expertise in:

  • Technical team leadership and/or participation in complex water resources investigations and feasibility studies
  • Studies of stream flow and aquifer conditions to determine natural flows, consumptive uses, influences of changing watershed conditions on runoff, water quality, and aquifer recharge
  • Modeling tools and decision support for integrated operations of river systems, multipurpose reservoirs, water delivery and return flows, and conjunctive surface and ground water use
  • Analysis of availability and dependability of water supplies for meeting historical, present, and future water demands including uncertainty and risk analysis
  • Utilization of advanced mathematical techniques such as stochastic hydrology and optimization for managing water resources and analysis of improved water operations to conserve water supplies and manage water more efficiently to meet competing demands
  • Evaluation, quality assurance, and enhancements of hydrological databases including measured and natural streamflow, water uses and demands, precipitation, evaporation, and evapotranspiration
  • Conducting applied research and technology advancement in the areas of water resources planning and operations
  • Extreme precipitation and extreme flood event studies
  • Probable maximum flood studies
  • Hydrologic risk assessments of dams
  • Inflow design hydrographs and cross drainage analyses
  • Flood frequency and statistical hydrological analyses
  • Drought index development and application, hydrometeorology, and hydrology research
  • Hydrometeorologic analysis and forecasting
  • Cloud physics analyses of precipitation processes
  • NEXRAD precipitation processing application

Sedimentation & River Hydraulics (8240)

Group Manager:  Jennifer Bountry (jbountry@usbr.gov; 303-445-3614)


The Sedimentation & River Hydraulics Group is composed of about 20 hydraulic engineers and scientists who conduct studies of how rivers and reservoirs have or will respond to changes in river flow, sediment supply, or channel modification. The group prepares studies for a variety of purposes including stream habitat restoration, protection of streamside infrastructure, and reservoir sediment management and long-term sustainability. Many studies focus on Reclamation facilities; their physical impact on river channels and endangered species habitat, recreation, wetlands, and cultural resources. Professional work experience includes field data collection, geomorphic analysis, numerical modeling, and river engineering problem solving. Sediment studies of rivers and reservoirs link changes in stream flow and sediment supply to processes controlling changes in river channel shape, alignment, lateral migration and bank erosion. A wide range of modeling and analysis software tools are developed in house and applied to simulate a wide variety of river and reservoir scenarios and provide an integrated view of river hydraulic and morphological processes. Specific areas of technical expertise include:

  • River channel surveys
  • Reservoir sedimentation surveys
  • Sediment management studies for habitat restoration, protection of streamside infrastructure, and long-term sustainability of reservoirs
  • Research and development:
    • numerical model development
    • river channel process investigations
    • river structure design criteria
    • sediment measurement
  • Numerical Modeling of rivers and reservoirs (1D, 2D, and 3D):
    • river and floodplain hydraulics
    • sediment transport
    • lateral channel migration
    • vegetation growth and mortality and linkages to habitat
  • Development of technical guidelines

Geographic Applications & Analysis (8260)

Group Manager:  Bruce Whitesell (bwhitesell@usbr.gov; 303-445-2287)

This multidisciplinary group accomplishes varied technical investigations, reviews, and related operational and developmental work and services in the areas of:  1) modeling, automation, and analysis focused on geospatial and remote sensing applications including the design and development of geoprocessing workflows and GIS databases, analysis and display of spatial relationships, and the acquisition, and quality assurance for geospatial, LiDAR, remote sensing, and ground survey data, and 2) development and analysis of hazard classifications, population at risk and loss of life estimations, and modeling and mapping of flood inundation. Specific focus areas include:

  • Development of data models, design of GIS and tabular databases, and development of data management and data storage techniques
  • Analysis and display of complex spatial interrelationships
  • Design, development, and automation of advanced geoprocessing workflows
  • Acquisition, quality assurance, and processing of LiDAR, remote sensing, and ground survey data
  • Population at risk and loss of life estimating
  • Flood inundation modeling and mapping

Economic Analysis (8270)

Group Manager:  Matthew Elmer (melmer@usbr.gov; 303-445-2614)

The Economics Analysis Group provides expertise in evaluating economic, financial, social, and cultural aspects of a wide range of water resource-related activities, including plan formulation and evaluation, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and altering project operations to achieve new or additional project goals. Areas of expertise include:

  • Developing benefit-cost analyses and project cost allocations for feasibility and appraisal level planning studies
  • Estimating regional economic impacts associated with new or re-operated projects and NEPA compliance documents
  • Estimating ability-to-pay of irrigators and municipal water users
  • Estimating economic benefits of irrigation, municipal and industrial water, recreation, hydropower, environmental resources endangered species, and water quality
  • Developing economic standards for land classification
  • Economic and financial analysis of Safety of Dams Program activities
  • Evaluating the social effects of Reclamation activities, including environmental justice and Indian Trust Assets impacts

The Economics Analysis Group's historian provides data research support to group economists and also offers expertise in historic built environment preservation and cultural resources management work including, but not limited to:

  • National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) determinations of eligibility for dam safety and other work, National Register individual property/district nominations and multiple property listings, and historic context statements
  • Built history project narratives for asset management, planning, and environmental documents, including National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106/110 compliance support
  • Archival historic research into Reclamation features, such as offices, powerplants, dams, bridges, conveyances, etc.
  • Contractor-written history document reviews and support

Technical Communications (8280)

Group Manager:  Katie Hill (khill@usbr.gov; 720-325-3956)

This group produces, communicates, and delivers scientific, engineering, and other technical and non-technical documents and presentations based on water resources subject matter areas covering Reclamation programs and activities throughout the United States.  This includes, but is not limited to, studies related to dam safety, water resources planning and management, reservoir and river system operations, climate change impacts on water supply and demand, water storage, water conveyance, hydropower, and various research topics.  Technical aspects of these studies include the principles, concepts, techniques, and practices of professional technical communication, including writing, editing, and visual information presentation.  Areas of expertise include:

  • Document development and structuring throughout all phases of project lifecycle
  • Consistency and written information quality review
  • Application of common voice for documents with multiple authors
  • Assistance with plain language considerations for technical documents
  • Creating effective graphics for documents and presentations
  • Creating multimedia presentations
  • Website/webpage design and maintenance

Fisheries & Wildlife Resources (8290)

Group Manager:  Dave Moore (sdavidmoore@usbr.gov; 303-445-2242)

The Fisheries & Wildlife Resources Group conducts investigations to understand and develop technologies to reduce impacts, sustain, and improve aquatic and terrestrial wildlife communities associated with Reclamation’s water development facilities and operations. The group has technical specialists in fisheries and wildlife biology and NEPA specialists which provide information for Reclamation to maintain water and power deliveries in an environmentally sound manner. Areas of technical expertise include:

  • Investigating native and invasive fishery and wildlife (including avian and herpetological) interactions with Reclamation operations and facilities
  • Evaluating habitat needs, use, and upstream-downstream movements of fish and wildlife species
  • Assessing and assisting in designing fish protection technology (fishways, fish louvers, crowders, screens, fish friendly pumping technology)
  • Determining methods for separating and removing debris and other unwanted materials from fish at protection facilities
  • Performing NEPA process and documentation:  Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Assessments, Categorical Exclusions, Section 7 ESA Consultation
  • Aquatic Research Center – Aquaculture facility for aquatic species for live evaluation testing in hydraulic models
Last Updated: 1/22/24