Throughout the West, groundwater pumping occurs at unsustainable levels. This practice jeopardizes the primary water supply for many communities, industries and the environment. It also dramatically decreases communities’ resiliency during dry times when groundwater serves as a critical buffer against surface water shortages. Water in the West facilitates interdisciplinary research in law and policy, geophysics, engineering, economics and ecosystem science to identify and develop solutions for more effective groundwater management and policy. We develop new tools to better understand groundwater resources; identify ways to resolve water allocation disputes; and find legal, regulatory and policy pathways to successful implementation of groundwater legislation.
Electrical resistivity imaging of seawater intrusion into the Monterey Bay aquifer system
California Drought Panel - March 4, 2015
Infographic: Breaking Down the Water Bond
On November 4, Californians will go to the polls to vote in the state’s election. The first proposition on the ballot will be the “Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014,” better known as the 2014 Water Bond. It’s been a long path to the ballot for California’s most recent water bond issue. Originally proposed in 2009, the bond has been through several iterations to arrive at its current price tag of $7.545 billion.
Proposition 1 divides funds among seven broad categories and more than 15 sub-categories. Stanford University’s Water in the West has produced a shareable infographic designed to inform voters about how the funds from this water bond will be distributed – if they approve it.
Interactive Graphics: Understanding California's Groundwater
Improving the Linkage Between Groundwater and Land Use Planning
A new Water in the West report, “Before the Well Runs Dry: Improving the Linkage Between Groundwater and Land Use Planning,” identifies opportunities for managing groundwater and land use more coherently in California.
Groundwater is a critical resource in California, providing from 30% of the state’s water supply in normal years to 40% or more in dry years. As unsustainable groundwater use driven by land use changes continues in many basins around the state, there is growing consensus that more effective integration of land use planning and groundwater management is needed. To address this growing concern, Water in the West convened thirty groundwater managers, land use planners, water lawyers, consultants, and academics at Stanford University last fall in an Uncommon Dialogue, designed to bring leaders from different sectors to develop practical solutions to pressing environmental challenges centered on water.
This report, shaped in part by the Dialogue, provides the background and regulatory context for land use planning and groundwater management in California, shares case studies that highlight the intersection of groundwater and land use, and makes specific recommendations to improve the linkage between land use decisions and groundwater management in the state. The report includes several local case studies - Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, Orcutt (Santa Maria Groundwater Basin), Butte County, and Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management - to show how different communities in the state are responding to their groundwater and land use challenges.
Read the News Release
Panel on the California Drought: Causes, Context and Responses
California is in the midst of a historic drought. 2013 was the driest year since the state began keeping records 150 years ago, and this is the third driest year in a row. We began 2014 with record-low snowpack and reservoir levels. Newspaper headlines have been stark, warning of communities using their last months of water, zero deliveries from the state water project and rivers closed to fishing. Recent rains have not changed the fundamental situation: California is facing severe, perhaps unprecedented, water shortages. How bad is California’s drought and what are state officials likely to do about it? How will it affect agriculture, cities, homeowners, businesses and the Stanford campus?
On February 25, 2014, Water in the West brought together three Stanford experts to discuss the causes, policy implications and possible responses to the drought. Topics included:
• The meteorological causes of the drought and the longer-term implications of climate change for water supply
• California’s historical responses to drought and how the state, communities and water managers may cope with the drought this summer
• How the drought could influence California water policy
• The implications of the drought for the Stanford community and Stanford’s plans for adapting to the drought
Leon Szeptycki (Moderator) – Executive Director of Water in the West and Professor of the Practice at the Woods Institute. Water in the West is a Stanford program to foster interdisciplinary research and convene leaders from a broad spectrum of interests to address one of the American West’s greatest challenges. Leon is an attorney who specializes in water quality, water use and watershed restoration.
Daniel Swain – A Ph.D. candidate in Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science who coined the widely used term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” on his blog, weatherwest.com, to explain California’s drought. Daniel studies atmospheric processes that connect the earth’s middle latitudes to equatorial and polar regions with a particular emphasis on how these latitudinal links might be affected by broader climate change.
Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson – A leading expert in environmental and natural resources law and policy. Professor Thompson is the founding director of Stanford Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program, Perry L. McCarty Director and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and a Senior Fellow (by courtesy) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He is also the chairman of the board of the Resources Legacy Fund and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, a California trustee for The Nature Conservancy, and a board member of both the American Farmland Trust and the Sonoran Institute.
Tom Zigterman -- Associate Director, Water Services and Civil Infrastructure, Stanford University. Tom manages the operations of Stanford’s water supplies, including domestic water, surface water, wastewater and storm drainage systems, as well as other civil infrastructure such as dams, bridges and roads. He also chairs the Water Sustainability Working Team, which is currently planning the long-term sustainable management of Stanford’s water supply and demand.