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Drought drives our thinking these days. Currently, almost 59 percent of the West is experiencing some degree of drought. An important goal of our work is to learn from the current drought to develop tools to better prepare for the next one. Recently, Water in the West and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment helped organize and frame the discussion at a White House-sponsored symposium on drought. We joined water managers, water users, conservation groups and leaders of key federal agencies to discuss ideas for promoting watershed scale management, improving financing, and enhancing data and research, all with the goal of improving the federal government’s ability to help prepare and plan for future droughts.

California is limping through the current drought, largely by pumping increasing amounts of groundwater. Improved management of groundwater is needed to protect the state’s ability to survive future droughts. Sustainable groundwater management continues to be a focus of our work.  As part of those efforts, Water in the West is working with Stanford Law School’s Gould Center for Conflict Resolution and California State University Sacramento’s Center for Collaborative Policy to conduct a survey on groundwater data collection, use and sharing practices across the state. We have just circulated the survey to groundwater managers, consultants, and other relevant parties.  If you play a role in managing groundwater in California, and would like to take the survey, we invite you to participate by clicking here

Our research efforts continue to focus on solutions to the current water scarcity crisis. Read more about these efforts below.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Leon Szeptycki
Executive Director



Forward Thinking at White House Forum

What role can federal agencies play in fostering drought resilience? Water in the West outlined strategies for forward thinking to prepare for, manage and respond to drought over the long haul during a recent interagency symposium held in Washington, D.C. The National Drought Resilience Partnership invited Stanford water law experts Barton “Buzz” Thompson and Leon Szeptycki to produce discussion papers framing dialogue at the event. More...

New Report: Implementing California’s Landmark Groundwater Legislation

After three years of severe drought, the California legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, which creates a statewide framework for groundwater regulation. This legislation came into effect on January 1, 2015, and presents local water agencies with significant opportunities and challenges.  Water in the West reports back on a recent Uncommon Dialogue that identifies those challenges and potential solutions. More...

Making Sustainable Groundwater Decisions

Surface water managers are increasingly turning to “enhanced decision support tools," models that are specifically designed to resolve disputes and help reach consensus based decisions.   But similar technologies have only recently come into play for making effective groundwater decisions. A new grant will fund a study of the role that data and models play in resolving groundwater disputes, and the potential role of enhanced decision support tools for the implementation of major groundwater legislation in California. More

In The News

California's Missing Water Fell on Boston

WGBH | July 13, 2015
Listen as Stanford’s Chris Field explains what happened to California’s storms last winter, and Richard Luthy tells why one extreme measure to bring water to the state would not work. Field, a Woods senior fellow (biology, Earth system science), is the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental studies. Luthy, also a senior fellow, is the Silas H. Palmer Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

Full Story

Professor Explains California's 'Arcane' Water Rights

Take Two, 89.3 KPCC | July 6, 2015California water law is unique in the West and perhaps the world, explains Woods Co-Director and Senior Fellow Buzz Thompson (Law).
Full Story…

Everyone's to Blame During CA Drought

SF Gate | June 18, 2015
If everyone’s to blame for the drought, then everyone can take part in responding. Newsha Ajami explains how. Ajami is senior research scientist and director of urban water policy with the Water in the West program.
Full Story…

In Print

Dædalus on Water:
Water Challenges Invite Decisions and Opportunities

Challenges inherent in humanity’s use of water continue to grow with changes in weather, climate and population. As guest editors of the journal Dædalus, Stanford Professors Anna Michalak and Chris Field frame these challenges within a context of the decisions they call for and the emerging opportunities they offer. The journal assembles related concepts from water experts, including Richard Luthy, David Sedlak and Terry Anderson.…

Full Story…


On The Road

Watch Stanford professors by video, as they speak about drought at the Aspen Ideas Festival. David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, emeritus, lays out history; Woods Co-Director and Senior Fellow Buzz Thompson (law) offers legal perspectives; and Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth system science) considers climate change. More

What We Are Reading

All the Wild That Remains (2015) characterizes America’s West through the timeless writing of Wallace Stegner, who launched Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, and his student, Edward Abbey. Author David Gessner wanders the trails the two writers blazed, and finds that their words still hold up to today’s challenges of living in the arid West. More chronicles California’s water challenges. Matt Weiser, formerly of the Sacramento Bee, is managing editor. More

More Info and Feedback

To find more information on Water in the West, please click here.

Please get in touch with feedback or suggestions for topics to cover in future updates by emailing: If you no longer wish to receive the monthly update, please click here.

Water in the West

A program of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Bill Lane Center for the American West

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