Our History

RMA was founded in 1974 by UC Davis professor Jerry Orlob and UC Berkeley alumni Bill Norton and Ian King (who later also joined the faculty at UC Davis) with the goal of applying state-of-the-art computer-aided modeling to water resource management. From the beginning, RMA staff developed and applied numerical models to the simulation of hydrodynamics, water quality and temperature, sediment transport and groundwater. Over the years RMA staff have worked on a wide range of modeling projects including nuclear waste isolation, frost heave in chilled gas pipelines, and even solar winds.

RMA has experienced the evolution of computer technology from the use of punch cards in 1974 to cloud computing today, always riding the cutting edge of technology. Beginning with development of computational models for water resources problems, our scope of software development has expanded to include graphical user interfaces, geo-referenced mapping, database systems, client-server systems, and mobile web applications.

River-Reservoir Water Quality Modeling

Don Smith, RMA’s current president and one of the firm’s first employees came to RMA in 1978. Don was the primary developer of Water Quality River Reservoir System (WQRRS) and its successor, HEC-5Q river-reservoir temperature and water-quality model, which he has continued to develop and successfully apply to numerous systems over the past four decades. Under Don’s leadership, RMA has worked on water quality models for many of the major US river systems including the Columbia in the Northwest, ACT-ACF in the Southeast, Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems in California, the Red River of the North in Minnesota, and the Osage River in Missouri. The models for the Sacramento and San Joaquin systems are among the primary tools used by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Bureau of Reclamation for temperature management in the region.

Modeling of California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a complex inland estuary that is both an important and fragile ecosystem and a central component of the California water supply system. Dr. Orlob was one of the first engineers to apply computer modeling techniques to the Bay-Delta, and, in the 1970’s, Dr. Orlob with Don Smith and others at RMA developed the Link-Node model of the Delta, one of the earliest tools for simulation of hydrodynamics and salinity transport for the system. Later, Dr. King developed an early model of the Bay-Delta using RMA2, and in the late 1990’s John DeGeorge, Richard Rachiele, and Stacie Grinbergs refined that model to form a detailed RMA Bay-Delta Model. The RMA team has continued to develop and refine the RMA Bay-Delta model and it has been applied to a wide variety of studies including analysis of gate and export operations, reconfiguration of channels, levee failures and island flooding, and both small and very large scale tidal marsh restoration. Today, in addition to the 2D/1D RMA Bay-Delta Model, we also apply a wide variety of tools for analysis of the system ranging from full 3D simulation with stratified flow (TRIM, UnTRIM, SUNTANS) to 1D models (DSM2, DSM2 Qual, WAM) as needed based on the requirements of the specific project. We have provided modeling services to and collaborated with many public agencies, academic institutions and private interests including the California Department of Water Resources, California Fish and Wildlife, USGS, USBR, and many local water agencies and sanitary districts.

Software development for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for managing navigable waterways and operation of water control facilities across the nation. The Corps utilizes numerical models for both planning and real-time operations and has funded the development of many generalized models that are made available to the engineering community. Throughout RMA’s history, we have provided software development services to the Corps. Working with the Waterways Experiment Station (now the Engineer Research Development and Center), Dr. Ian King and Bill Norton developed the first versions of the RMA series of finite element models for 1D, 2D, and 3D simulation of flow, water quality, and sediment transport. These models were included as part of the TABS modeling system and later in the SMS modeling software. Don Smith developed HEC-5Q with support from the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center as a companion water quality model to the HEC-5 reservoir operation model. Since the mid 1990’s, John DeGeorge has lead our support for the Hydrologic Engineering Center as their primary software development contractor. RMA has contributed to most of the current versions of the HEC software suite (including HEC-HMS, HEC-ResSim, HEC-RAS, HEC-FIA) as well as the Corps Water Management System for real-time water control.