California Water Policy – A Report

Professor Rick FrankProfessor Richard Frank joined the Environmental Concerns Speaker Series of the LWVBAE on February 8th to discuss an extremely relevant environmental concern: water in California. To present a thorough overview, he drew upon his extensive career in environmental law, from his time as Executive Director of the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment at UC Berkeley to his current work as a UC Davis professor and Director of the California Environmental Law & Policy Center. 

Frank identified issues impacting California’s water supply such as the state’s unmatched climate variability, prominent agriculture, and population. He also acknowledged the prevalence of droughts, noting California’s last major one stretched from 2012 to 2016, a problem that highlights a concerning trend.

“Every year California has a worse drought than the eastern half of the United States has ever experienced, ” he said.

To no surprise, climate change has also been a significant factor, causing the Sierra Nevada Snowpack, California’s largest natural reservoir, to shrink. Combine these factors with rising sea levels and the fire risk, it is clear that implementing solutions to California’s water crises have increased in urgency, leading Professor Frank to pose the question,

“How do we provide for urban uses, domestic uses, commercial uses, industrial uses, our agricultural needs as well as environmental values?”

To answer these questions, he suggested we start with the path of least resistance.

“The easiest way to create new water supplies is by conserving what we have,” he continued.

Another proposed solution was to create more water storage, but engineering new systems has serious financial and environmental costs. Luckily, there are means of water storage that already exist. 

“Using our groundwater aquifers as additional storage to me makes a lot more sense. It is a lot more cost effective and a lot less environmentally damaging than building new dams,” he said.

Overall Frank maintained optimism, acknowledging that although the current California legislature hasn’t moved forward with innovative solutions, solutions to address these challenges do exist.

–Ava Clason

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