Rationalizing the Allocation of California Water                                
April 19 - April 21, 2016
Short Course:
Rationalizing the Allocation of California Water                                
April 19, 2016
Open Lecture:
Rationalizing the Allocation of California Water                  
April 20, 2016

    The Linde Center for Global Environmental Science at Caltech is hosting a workshop, "Rationalizing the Allocation of California Water" at the Keck Center on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA on April 19 - April 21, 2016. In addition to this invitation-only workshop, there will be a short course and a lecture - both of which are available to all interested students, researchers and faculty in the Southern California area.


    California is in the midst of an historic drought, now the worst in recorded history.  It has not been managed well.  Reservoirs are drying up. Crops are wilting in the fields. For the first time ever, towns and cities will face a mandatory 25 percent cut in their water use.  Even those holding the oldest rights are facing cutbacks.  That is the short-term problem.  But there is a long-term problem faced by California and much of the rest of the world –- how to manage a complex water system that is increasingly under pressure.

    Designed piecemeal over the last century, going back to a time when Los Angeles had one-sixth its current population, California's system for managing water doesn't just make it tough to deal with shortages — in some ways, it encourages inefficiencies and waste. But even if one were free to design a new system, achieving sensible ground water management would be a complex undertaking due to a variety of reasons:  the current over prescription of use, interaction between surface and ground water, variability of climate, need for an extensive monitoring and enforcement system, ownership views of overlying users, the amount of cooperation needed on regional scales, etc. 

    How should one design and implement a new system for water management?  This is partly a climate issue, partly an engineering issue, partly an economic issue, and partly a political issue.  It requires co-ordination across a number of disciplines. 

    Workshop Focus:

    This workshop will bring together scientists who are actively working on the issues associated with Water in California: from diverse disciplines such as climate, infrastructure, markets, and politics.  A primary goal of the workshop is to connect recent advances in these different communities to build a more comprehensive understanding of the California water crisis and possible solutions.  Key open questions that need collaboration between different disciplines will be identified.

    The topics to be covered include:

    • How bad is the problem?
      • Some suggest that current drought and climate change conditions portend “the end of California.”  Others suggest that the cyclical nature of western drought dictates that the water will come back. It’s gone away before, in droughts past, but it has always returned and will do so again; it’s only a matter of time. What are the facts?
    • Can and how should use be measured?
      • Remote sensing has been successfully used to measure trends in ground water levels.  Is it precise enough?  Are there alternatives?  Earth scientists and engineers can help here.
    • How should water use be managed?
      • What is the appropriate legal structure?  What is the role of markets?  Are there other alternatives?