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.

Trading Sustainably: Critical Considerations for Local Groundwater Markets Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) potentially opens the door for local groundwater markets, however, it does not provide guidance about when a local groundwater market might be a useful and appropriate management tool. Our new report outlines a set of considerations designed to help decision makers and stakeholders evaluate whether a local groundwater market might be a viable tool for sustainably managing their groundwater basins and, if so, how to effectively implement it.

Comprehensive Response to Climate Change Comments

Our comments on the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) draft resolution on climate change largely commend SWRCB for their timely effort to address both mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the effects of climate change. We also recommended additional actions, including: explicitly addressing the energy intensity of different sources of water, considering potential for GHG emissions reductions in wastewater treatment, explicitly addressing flow requirements, and specifically addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities.

Unanswered Questions for Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act 

California is grappling with the implications of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a visionary and potentially revolutionary law that could profoundly change the way water is managed in the state. The nature of the revolution, however, is not yet clear. Whether and how SGMA achieves its goals hinges on open questions about its implementation. In this article we lay out a set of questions that must be answered before the policy goals given in SGMA can be translated into successful and sustainable groundwater governance.

MikeChartNarrowFontFinalDesigning Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies: Criteria for Evaluation of Local Governance Options

A new law requires California governments to form dozens of new agencies to manage groundwater. However, the law does not give them specific direction on what they will need to do, or how they can set themselves up for success. To address the need for guidance, we developed a framework to help these agencies prepare to manage this critical resource for the first time.

mono-lake-thumbMono Lake at 20: Past, Present and Future

Almost 20 years after the State Water Resources Control Board’s landmark decision on Mono Lake (D-1631), its implications remain unresolved, both for Mono Lake and its tributaries and for the broader actions of the State Board in considering the public trust doctrine in new and existing water rights. We organized a symposium to move towards solutions for incorporating the public trust into new and existing water rights.


drought-stress-test-thumbDrought as stress test: Water allocation decisions in California’s historic 2014 drought

We are conducting research to learn from the catastrophe of California’s ongoing drought to inform future allocation decisions and policy reform proposals. Our work on this area is multi-faceted and ongoing, but one particular interest is developing the capacity of water rights systems to respond more effectively to water shortage.


Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative

water-security-thumbThe Wheeler Institute is the UC Berkeley lead for a major initiative bringing together five UC campuses to tackle one of the state’s most persistent challenges – the long-term security and sustainability of its most precious resource. The UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative is a coordinated, multi-campus, interdisciplinary effort to address water-security challenges through research in three tightly-linked and broadly-defined areas: infrastructure, institutions, and information. This initiative is supported by the University of California Office of the President.

Mississippi-thumbRiparian Conservation Network for Ecological Resilience

As we try to protect biological diversity for the future, a perpetual challenge is ensuring that the strategies we adopt today will continue to work in the face of changing conditions. How can we design conservation approaches that will be resilient in the face of environmental challenges that will only become more severe in coming years?Along with our colleagues, we ask whether our network of rivers might provide a solution. We examine the possibility that a Riparian Conservation Network (RCN) could leverage existing riparian corridors by connecting existing protected areas into a more resilient system.