The Wheeler Water Institute develops interdisciplinary solutions to ensure clean water for California. Established in 2012, the Institute conducts projects at the intersection of law, policy and science. The Wheeler Institute currently has three major initiatives: emerging threats the water quality; conflicts between human and environmental water use, and resilient urban water systems.

We’ve won the 2017 Imagine H20 California Water Policy Challenge

Water rights records stored at the Merced County courthouse

Effective administration of California water resources requires a water rights database that includes all water rights and their terms, a system that doesn’t yet exist. CLEE and our partners at Water and Power Law Group PC will now be undertaking a pilot project to push forward a searchable database that supports management decisions and fosters sustainability.


Addressing Emerging Threats to Water Quality

This initiative seeks to anticipate and reduce emerging threats to water quality in California’s surface and groundwater. In the four decades since the passage of the Clean Water Act, many new hazards have emerged. Existing laws and regulations may not effectively manage the risks presented by population growth, new development patterns, changing natural conditions such as climate change, and infrastructure deterioration. This initiative seeks to increase our ability to effectively manage existing water quality threats, while developing tools necessary to respond to new challenges.

Mike Kiparsky, Director of the Wheeler Institute, and Leigh Bernacchi, Program Coordinator for the UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative

Reconciling Conflicts Between Human and Environmental Water Use

Water management involves tradeoffs between the benefits of human use and the environmental services that water provides when it flows naturally. Allocation of water has traditionally focused on human beneficial uses for most of California’s history. Yet, environmental uses of water are increasingly recognized as essential, as are the profound implications of not prioritizing them. These competing demands present challenges for fair allocation, water system management, ecological restoration, and resolution of water rights, among other areas. This initiative aims to contribute policy analysis to help better govern and monitor existing systems, and to create viable long-term solutions for competing water uses.


Developing Resilient Urban Water Systems

Urban water systems in California will need to adapt in response to changing conditions including climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, and other challenges. State leaders must develop innovative ways to manage water quality, drinking water supplies, wastewater, storm water, flood control, and other aspects of urban water, and to identify beneficial linkages among them. This initiative explores these integrated challenges. One critical and under explored area of research is the connection between advances in technology and management methods, and the legal and economic developments necessary for their implementation.

A Tribute to Henry H. “Sam” Wheeler (1927-2015)

The Center for Law, Energy and the Environment celebrates the life of Henry H. “Sam” Wheeler, who made extraordinary contributions as a leader in the water sector and as a philanthropist.

Sam served as President of Park Water Company from 1973 until 2011. As steward of this well-respected utility, Sam built an enduring institution. In addition to his leadership and tenacity leading Park Water to success as a water service provider, Sam cared deeply about his employees – his loyalty to his staff was a primary concern. Sam focused heavily on philanthropy during the past few years of his life. His support was as wide-ranging as his intellectual interests, with crucial and game-changing investments in areas from medical research to water pollution.

On a personal note, we at Berkeley Law found Sam’s intellectual curiosity and engagement as impressive as they were legendary among his peers. His appetite for science was voracious and wide-ranging. Sam’s critical and astute reading of the scientific literature resulted in an ability to challenge a spectrum of experts on the details of research in their specialties. Belying his prodigious abilities, Sam had a modest demeanor and love for in-depth conversation. We had a deep respect and affection for Sam, and will dearly miss him.

Sam had the vision to help us launch our work on water at UC Berkeley School of Law three years ago. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to continue the work he saw fit to help us begin.

Other tributes can be found from Sam’s professional community, the California Water Association, as well as other philanthropic beneficiaries such as CEND.