A confluence of water research

at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

As a California-based facility, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) understands the importance of responsible and sustainable water management. LLNL’s water-related research and operational programs span and connect many aspects of leading-edge water research and applications, including remediating legacy contamination at Department of Energy (DOE) facilities, understanding climate impacts on the hydrological cycle, and improving the resiliency of our state and national water infrastructure. Our work builds on the interdisciplinary strength of our workforce, unique laboratory capabilities, and world-class computational expertise.

In combination with our water research, LLNL is also dedicated to researching coastal ecosystems and the impact climate change has on aquatic environments. Find out how our water and coastal science research work together to help scientists understand the carbon cycle's influence on aquatic microbes by downloading the Coastal Science at LLNL factsheet

Learn more about our work by exploring our research topics below or downloading the Water Research at LLNL factsheet


leaf with water droplets

Behavior of Water at Surfaces and Interfaces

LLNL scientists are using first-principles simulations and in situ measurements to understand the physics of water and solute molecules near the surfaces of catalysts or membranes and in the confined spaces of pores or channels. By understanding transport of water contaminants, we can design better materials for water treatment.

To learn more about this research, contact Alex Noy or Tuan Anh Pham.

The world

Physics of Clouds and Precipitation

Climate scientists at Livermore study interactions between the land and atmosphere, combining observations from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement facility with state-of-the-art Earth system simulations. We develop models of how those interactions affect cloud formation, precipitation, and atmospheric chemistry, ultimately informing the global terrestrial water cycle.

To learn more about this research, contact Shaocheng Xie.

mountains by lake

Paleoclimate Science

To understand the interplay between precipitation, evaporation, vegetation, and surface and subsurface hydrology, LLNL climate scientists study lake and wetland sediments as geochemical and sedimentological archives. Combining these observations with the use of ultra-rare isotope capabilities at LLNL’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, we improve model predictions along with our understanding of natural climate systems and other Earth processes.

To learn more about this research, contact Susan Zimmerman.


Isotope Hydrology

Watershed scientists at LLNL study water flows and residence times in natural environments using isotopic and geochemical tracers. This research supports sustainable management of water resources and enhances our understanding of contaminant transport and nutrient and carbon-cycle science.

To learn more about this research, visit the Isotope Hydrology webpage.


Subsurface Reservoir Management

LLNL reservoir engineers, hydrologists, and geochemists couple modeling and analysis with field studies to quantify fluid movements in the subsurface and important rock–water interactions that control water composition and transport of contaminants. This research informs the design of geothermal reservoirs, oil and gas wells, subsurface energy storage systems, and geologic repositories for captured carbon dioxide, spent nuclear fuels, and other radioactive byproducts.

To learn more about this research, contact Susan Carroll.

world on leaf

Climate Change Detection and Attribution

Through rigorous statistical analysis and model interrogation, LLNL scientists improve our understanding of the nature and causes of climate change. The same techniques that attribute overall changes in atmospheric temperature to human activity are being used to quantify how natural and human-made factors can influence atmospheric moisture, precipitation, and sea level, thereby enhancing our ability to forecast and plan for times of water scarcity.

To learn more about this research, contact Philip Cameron-Smith.


Groundwater Protection

LLNL has long supported the protection of groundwater resources and management of legacy groundwater pollution issues. We have contributed to many national environmental science programs managed by DOE, including the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project. Within California, LLNL geochemists and hydrologists have applied their skills to aquifer storage projects in Orange County and water management challenges in the Salton Sea basin.

To learn more about this research, contact Mavrik Zavarin or Andy Tompson.

snowpack covered mountain

Improved Western US Snowpack Predictions

LLNL scientists are developing novel machine learning methods to correct climate model biases and downscale climate model data to improve the accuracy and resolution of temperature, precipitation, and snowpack predictions. Improved climate predictions can help mitigate the threats climate change poses to the nation’s water security, critical agricultural industries and infrastructures, and hydropower generation.

To learn more about this research, contact Gemma Anderson.


Flow-Through Electrode Capacitive Deionization (FTE-CDI)

Engineers at LLNL are developing revolutionary desalination technologies that use electricity to remove salt from water. FTE-CDI requires special materials called carbon aerogels that have high capacitance, good electrical conductivity, and are porous enough to let water flow through freely in order to extract salts. For brackish water, FTE-CDI is fundamentally more energy efficient than traditional desalination technologies.

To learn more about this research, visit the FTE-CDI webpage.


Carbon Nanotube Membranes

Chemists and material scientists are studying molecular and ionic transport in single nanochannels and in nanoporous membranes under a variety of driving forces. Efforts are also underway to fabricate nanocomposite and biomimetic membranes for various applications, including physical and chemical separations, protective and breathable fabrics, and skin-inspired responsive systems.

To learn more about this research, contact Francesco Fornasiero.

grass blades

Systems Analysis

Leveraging a rich legacy of energy system visualizations, LLNL analysts have turned their attention to the energy–water nexus. We are using a broad range of economic data to quantify the relationships between irrigation and biofuels, water and wastewater treatment and electricity, produced water and fossil fuels, and fresh water and power plant cooling—generating relevant findings for policymakers and other stakeholders.

computer servers

Exascale Cooling

With the next generation of supercomputing already being installed on the Livermore campus, our facilities and infrastructure team is investigating ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle the vast quantities of water needed to cool one of the world’s most powerful computers.


Emerging Technologies

LLNL is always pursuing the next innovation in sustainable water management. From enhanced surfaces that improve ultraviolet treatment and novel materials that can capture water from air to engineered microbes that can recover heavy metals, researchers at the Laboratory are committed to advancing clean water innovations.