Evaluation of Water Planning and Climate Science in California

Students in this policy lab will work with the Union of Concerned Scientists to assess the climate assumptions and projections underlying California water planning. Water planning, including decisions about future infrastructure, water use, and water allocation, must account for decades-long time scales. Decisions made now will certainly be impacted by the effects of climate change. While many local, state and federal agencies have devoted significant energy and resources to integrating climate change into water planning, California does not have a consistent approach or set of methodologies for doing so. Although water planning is not always conducive to a one-size-fits-all approach, it is important to understand the rationales behind different approaches to incorporating climate change into water planning. This is critical in order to evaluate their effectiveness in meeting legislative, regulatory, and planning objectives, and to ensure that the state’s various water planning decisions fit together.

Students will conduct a comparative analysis of the ways in which climate change is (or is not) taken into account in the variety of water planning documents developed and used in California. This type of analysis is needed in order to assess the impacts of the current methods of incorporating climate science information in water resources planning efforts. In addition, students will develop recommendations to improve the incorporation of climate science into California’s water planning processes.

By analyzing key pieces of water planning legislation, regulation and guidance material, students will investigate how climate change assumptions and projections are incorporated into water planning and management decisions. This will include examining any legal requirements (through legislation or regulation) to incorporate climate science or projections, and identifying the key climate assumptions or projections that agencies have actually used in water planning decisions or documents. Students will perform more detailed analysis of the planning documents (where applicable) developed under each piece of legislation to assess 1) whether plans meet the legislative requirements for incorporating climate change, 2) the consistency of plans developed in accordance with the same legislation, and 3) the range of technical approaches used across agencies and programs. The class, through the participation of students from relevant departments or outside experts, may also seek to assess whether specific planning decisions are relying on the best and most appropriate climate science.

Students will prepare individual papers and work together to convert those papers into a report to be used by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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