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I recently attended a Princeton conference on global governance, complex adaptive systems, and evolutionary theory. The conference was hosted by ecologist Simon Levin and political scientist Bob Keohane, and featured some of the world’s top scholars in these areas of research. Simon Levin, who has written extensively about complex adaptive systems and a gazillion other things, offered the analogy of the immune system as a way to think how water governance responds to risk and crises. Immune systems help maintain the function of biological organisms by responding quickly to invasions from external pathogens, or regulating rogue cells that might otherwise cause cancers.
The recent California drought is a time machine. It represents a regularly recurring event in California’s Mediterranean climate, which cycles back and forth between dry and wet years so frequently that a “normal” year is actually the exception. Hence, we have witnessed many droughts in the past, and we will see them again in the future. This prediction holds even if the models are wrong in forecasting that climate change will load the “climate dice” in favor of more frequent and longer duration droughts in the future. Of course most readers know this already—the recurring climate and hydrological patterns of California are big news headlines with nice info-graphics (and countless blogs, tweets, etc) in 2013-2014.
The following Los Angeles Times headlines illustrate the severity of drought in California:
Interesting news today about the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to declare that many of the levees in the Sacramento region fail to meet maintenance standards. As a result, the Army Corp may decertify the levees as meeting the 100-year flood protection standards, forcing many homeowners in the area to purchase expensive flood insurance ($1200 per year!) and limiting federal funding for rebuilding in the wake of a flood. Not only does this case have important implications for Sacramento, which has one of the highest flood risks in the country, but it also illustrates a number of recurring issues in the bureaucratic politics of risk with respect to flood management.
We recently released the second in our series of research briefs from our project investigating sustainability in California viticulture. This brief reports the perceived effectiveness of sustainability programs throughout the state, based on findings from our survey of viticulture outreach professionals and semi-structured interviews of winegrape growers. Take a look at the brief and feel free to provide comments.
DAVIS, Calif. -- The population of California's Central Valley is expected to balloon from 7 million to 12 million people in the next 30 years, making it the fastest growing region anywhere in the United States or Mexico. Can the valley's communities be that big and green as well?
"I am actually pretty pessimistic about the possibility," says the lead author of a new UC Davis review of 100 Central Valley cities' growth policies.