About the Water Program

The Wheeler Water Institute contributes robust analysis and forward-looking policy recommendations to directly inform decision-making. Anchored by our unique blend of legal, policy, and technical expertise, we bring clarity and actionable research to a famously challenging field. Established in 2012 at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) at Berkeley Law, the Institute conducts projects at the intersection of law, policy and science.

With an expanding statewide population and increasing precipitation extremes, California must rethink the way it manages water – from recognizing the linkages between groundwater and surface water, to enhancing drinking water system resilience for small and disadvantaged communities, to reimagining wastewater as a resource. Our research aims to address these challenges by informing California water governance and guiding stakeholders through complex policy issues in order to improve decision making across the state. 

New Reports

Addressing Institutional Vulnerabilities in California’s Drought Water Allocation

Open Drought Water Allocation pageCalifornia droughts are likely to become more frequent, longer, and more intense in the future, posing increasing challenges for water management, and raising the stakes for effective drought response.  Past droughts have stress tested California’s water management institutions, revealing vulnerabilities that could impair effective adaptation to climate change. The State Water Resources Control Board (Board) is a key water decision maker whose actions affect how scarce water resources are allocated among different human and environmental uses during droughts. 

In a pair of reports published as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, we examine how the Board has carried out its water rights responsibilities during the last four major statewide droughts (in 1976–77, 1987–1992, 2007–2009, and 2012–2016) and offer recommendations for proactive steps the agency can take to improve its future drought response.