The WATER Institute develops innovative science-based solutions for communities and the environment to address the legacy of hydrologically destructive land-use practices and policies on California’s watersheds, and the urgent need to address the impacts of climate change on the water cycle.

“The water cycle
and the life cycle
are one”
Jacques Cousteau

In 2004, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) established the WATER Institute (Watershed Advocacy, Training, Education & Research) to promote understanding of the importance of healthy watersheds to healthy communities.  Through demonstration, education, watershed community organizing and advocacy leadership, the WATER Institute empowers community-based watershed literacy and action by:

  • Reframing the policy debate around water quality and supply at the city, county and California state levels;
  • Educating and empowering all sectors of regional economies to implement restoration, conservation, and policy changes in their communities for water security;
  • Implementing climate change responsive land-use and water management practices at the watershed scale.

For general WATER Institute inquiries, please contact


WATER News

CDFW Releases Beavers Into the Wild for First Time in Nearly 75 Years

The state’s new Beaver Restoration Program completed its first relocation in October, 2023. See the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) press release here. We were honored to be … Read more

The origin—and fandom—of Slow it, Spread it, Sink it

Like Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food movement, we have our own “slow water movement” at OAEC. You might know it as the permaculture mantra, or perhaps you’ve seen it as part … Read more

Cal-PBR Workshops

We’re reporting back from two highly successful CalPBR Network workshops that took place in October, empowering folks to further advance their skills in process-based restoration and all of its benefits. … Read more

Bring Back the Beaver

CA-Beaver-Flag

To improve water supply for humans and the environment and increase resilience to drought and climate change, the WATER Institute is working to integrate beaver management into California policy and regulation.

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WATER Institute Staff

Brock Dolman

Brock Dolman

Co-Founder; Program Director

Brock Dolman (He/Him) co-directs the WATER Institute, Permaculture Design Program and Wildlands Program. He has taught Permaculture and consulted on regenerative project design and implementation internationally in Costa Rica, Ecuador, U.S. Virgin Islands, Spain, Brazil, China, Canada, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba and widely in the U.S.

Kate Lundquist

WATER Institute Co-Director

Kate Lundquist (she/her) co-directs the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s WATER Institute and the Bring Back the Beaver Campaign. Collaborating with landowners, communities, tribes, conservation organizations and resource agencies across California, Kate works to implement beaver and process-based restoration to conserve watersheds, recover listed species, increase water security and build resilience to climate change (www.oaec.org/beaver).

Johanna Silver

WATER Institute Communications and Project Manager

As the Communications and Project Manager with The WATER Institute, Johanna Sliver’s (She/Her) job is to build enthusiasm around beaver, process-based restoration, and other WATER Institute programs…


The WATER Institute can help you protect your watershed:

Modeling Watershed Resiliency

“Just as water is the foundation of life, it must also be the foundation of design in the built environment.”
Betsy Damon (Keeper of the Waters)

Conservation Hydrology
Demonstration at OAEC

Community resilience depends on healthy relationships with our watersheds. Through a practice we call “Conservation Hydrology,” you can create and install water management systems that restore and protect watersheds. Learn about our Conservation Hydrology demonstration site  for design inspiration.

Training Changemakers

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”
Steven Wright

The WATER Institute supports students, landowners, watershed advocates, land managers, land-use professionals, agency staff and policy makers to become water-literate environmental stewards. You too can increase your community’s watershed literacy by drawing from our many resources.

Supporting Communities to Transform Watersheds

“Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.”
John Thorson

Viewing your watershed as a shared “basin of relations” allows you and your neighbors to truly define the boundaries of your community and to organize around meaningful issues of lasting local social security.

Changing the Rules

“Fix it in your constitution that no corporation, no body of men, no capital can get possession and right to your waters. Hold the waters in the hands of the people.”
John Wesley Powell 1890 North Dakota Constitutional Convention
Brock Dolman in a salmon suit testifying to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on behalf of Totem Salmon. Read his speech.

We are perched on the tipping point of a “watershed moment.” Considering the importance of water, we all need to be involved in the politics of water resources.

Lasting change ultimately occurs in the arenas of politics and democratic decision-making. Learn how the WATER Institute is changing the rules through our Bring Back the Beaver Campaign and other agricultural water work.


Conservation Hydrology – Concepts Coined

At the WATER Institute we call our philosophical and practical responses to current water challenges and opportunities “Conservation Hydrology.” Conservation Hydrology emphasizes community-based watershed literacy, planning and action. It challenges the current “dehydration model” of human development and advocates for a “rehydration model.” The old “drain-age” is now being replaced by a new “retain-age”!  To achieve this goal we must retrofit existing development patterns with new ones based on the following principles outlined below, coined by WATER Institute Co-Director, Brock Dolman.

Illustration by Jim Coleman

Slow it. Spread it. Sink it.

The Clean Water Act now recognizes the “pave and pipe paradigm” as disastrously flawed and hydro-illiterate. These outmoded engineering practices capture, concentrate, and convey water “away” as quickly as possible, which in drought-prone areas is especially harmful. The WATER Institute advocates a new paradigm to recharge our aquifers with a call to slow it, spread it, sink it: Slow the water down. Spread the water out. Sink the water into the land. Brock Dolman’s slow it, spread it sink it meme has gone viral worldwide!

stormwater illustration
Illustration by Jim Coleman

Basins of Relations

Watersheds are catchment basins of varying sizes that collect surface water and groundwater in a given geographical area. â€śBasins of relations” is the notion that our watersheds are complex, living systems full of organisms that rely on us to be aware of how our actions impact the waters we share. All of our organizing strategies at the WATER Institute are based on a “ridgeline to reef” model that recognizes that actions taken in the uplands have profound consequences downstream.

Basins of Relations - OAEC
Illustration by Jim Coleman