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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Getting Our Feet Wet: Water Management at Mt. Laguna in Cleveland National Forest


Integrated regional water management (IRWM) helps us to comprehend the ecological, political, and economic complexities of broad watershed regions in California. In this case study, stakeholder theory served as the framework for an assessment of water management at Mt. Laguna, CA, a rural community on the outskirts of San Diego, CA. After identifying stakeholders, I conducted interviews and surveys to gauge perspectives on water management at Mt. Laguna and to develop categories speaking to the major concerns. In addition, I used a document review to help understand the policy framework surrounding water management in this community. I created four categories: water scarcity and access, fire protection, environmental protection and recreation, and costs of infrastructure and water quality testing. A complex, fractured aquifer system led to disagreements about water scarcity in the region, which combined with rule of capture water law to illustrate how unbridled water extraction could lead to stresses and conflict. I identified fire protection as a top priority, demanding extensive water resources in the wake of the Cedar Fire of 2003. The U.S. Forest Service continues to balance conservation and recreational goals through environmental impact assessments. Finally, costs of infrastructure and water quality testing produced great strain on rural communities, particularly those less affluent than Mt. Laguna. To mitigate these conflicts, it is important that stakeholders develop an understanding of each other’s priorities and the ecological realities of the surrounding region, and participate in collaborative management. Low Impact Development measures to conserve water could also help alleviate conflicts.

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