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The Great California Drought: Lessons Learned And Not Learned

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Antonio Rossmann (Berkeley, USA)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,
AbstractBecause of its size, population, social and geographical diversity, and cultural significance on the world stage, California can be seen as the harbinger of the world's water future. What is that future, and is it worthy of emulation or rejection -- or a combination of both? This paper seeks to illuminate these questions.

The water year 2013-2014 has capped a three-year drought unprecedented in California history. It's not just that the 2013-2014 year was one of the driest of record; it was preceded by two nearly dry years. Of equal significance, California's expanded water use in recent years, and realignment of that use into new hardened demands of urban development and orchard crops, have brought man-made tragedy as great as that created by nature.

Nonetheless, California ended 2013 with two promising developments, which can be attributed in part to public awareness of drought: a multi-billion dollar investment by California voters in water infratructure and practices, and enactment of the first statewide groundwater regulation in the state's 164-year history.

The author draws on four decades of California water law practice and three decades of teaching water resources law to assess the state's recent water history, and current threats posed by expanded water use and reduced water availability in a climate-changed future. Promises and shortcomings of the 2013 initiatives will be assessed. A conclusion will essay changes that California still must address to secure its water future into the next generation. References to follow.

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin