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Should California have a Water Czar? Everybody would agree that California water management is complex and chaotic with many different actors making decisions in many different policy venues, often ignoring how their welfare is interdependent, and therefore missing out on opportunities for mutual gains and avoiding mutual costs. For the last two decades in California, along with many other places in the US and internationally, the solution to this chaos was the implementation of collaborative watershed management, or integrated regional water management, or whatever synonym you prefer. The theory is that by getting all the stakeholders together to jointly make water management decisions, they are able to recognize interdependence and make mutually benficial decisions. "Getting better together", "the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time", "co-equal goals", and all that.
I'm currently staying in Fremantle (Freo), which is a little suburb of Perth in Western Australia. I'm here to work on designing a study of regional climate adaptation in the Swan-Canning watershed (here is a nice link to the Water Corporation's "Water Forever" program focused on the Perth region: http://www.thinking50.com.au/go/water-forever-home). I'm partnering with the CSIRO climate adaptation flagship (http://www.csiro.au/org/ClimateAdaptationFlagship.html), and Garry Robbins from University of Melbourne.
I recently responded to a broadcast call from the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide input into the shape of their social and behavioral science research agenda. I just finished an interview with the consultant they hired to gather input. The interview was conducted by a general environmental consultant firm under contract with EPA. It consisted of a few semi-structured interview questions that were very general, for example "what are the most important questions studied by social and behavioral sciences?" So one answer to that question that is basically useless is "how do humans behave?" There we some more focused questions though, for example what are the top 5 environmental problems facing the globe that EPA should be studying and how should social and behavioral sciences be involved.
I just finished reading through this brief review of some studies about how much college students are learning.
The main point of the review is that college students aren't learning because college classes have become much less rigorous. To me, this is one of the most serious problems in higher education along with the budget of course. But there are links to the budget here, because most legislatures and higher university admin want to maximize student throughput.
I've just returned from a trip to Washington DC for a project on social network analysis as a tool for monitoring and evaluation of international development projects. While I was there, I met with a friend of mine at USDA who focuses on developing markets for ecosystem services for agriculture. Like other payment schemes, such markets would provide farmers credit for environmental performance such as carbon sequestration. We debated about whether markets would be better than regulation for non-point source pollution.
This discussion gave me an opportunity to vent on the topic of non-point source pollution. For the most part, non-point source pollution is the third rail of water management and environmental policy. In contrast to point sources (end-of-pipe) such as industrial effluent and sewage treatment plants, non-point sources are diffuse and multiple. The classic examples are runoff from farms, and urban runoff from construction sites or lawns.
I went on a field trip today as part of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute's "National Symposium on Food and Sustainability." I was in a group focused on "resiliency", and we were paired with three general managers from local reclamation districts. Reclamation Districts are relatively unknown to most people, but they are local special district governments responsible for flood control, drainage, and irrigation. They have a long history of providing local public goods to agricultural landowners in California, with many of them dating back to the late 19th century.
Can you manage water without thinking about people? I went to an eye-opening meeting between UC Davis researchers and many program managers at the California Department of Water Resources. DWR is the main state agency responsible for water supply infrastructure, and they are heavily based in the civil engineering profession. They are also responsible for publishing the California State Water Plan. The meeting was about funding research at UC Davis to help DWR make decisions and do water planning. Among the materials provided at the meeting was a big wish list of projects that UCD researchers might get involved with.
Science is a group endeavor, and I feel it is important to have lab trips that build a sense of community. But for some strange reason, our lab enjoys straying from hiking trails and bushwacking through rough country to reach our destination. This time we went to Zim Zim falls, which is in the backcountry Blue Oak woodlands around Lake Berryessa. You would think it would be impossible to lose the trail in a fairly well-travelled area, but we managed to do it anyway (I wasn't in front...blameless!!). The nearly continuous drizzle didn't make it any easier when we couldn't find the trail down from a ridge and back into the creek valley. It was easy to see where we needed to go looking into the valley, but hard to crush through all the knee to chest-high, wet vegetation. But we made it after lots of cursing, hollering, and soaked clothing.
We have just released our first "policy brief" from the sustainable viticulture project. The brief focuses on the perceived costs and benefits of sustainable viticulture practices and how uncertainty affects these evaluations. The report was widely distributed to study participants and other sustainable viticulture stakeholders. Click on the attachment below to download the report.
It is the day after the Leuphana conference on the EU Watershed Framework Directive. I'm relaxing and reflecting for a day in the beautiful town of Luneberg, Germany before the long trek back to Davis. Thanks to Jens Newig, Mariele Evers, Oliver Fritsch, and Leonie Lange for organizing the proceedings. The goal was a cross-country comparison of public participation and watershed management in the context of the WFD. I was invited to present some insights from watershed management in California and the US, as well as discuss the potential for the ecology of games framework to be applied across the EU member states at the watershed level.