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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Managing California’s Water: Insights from Interviews with Water Policy Experts

  • Author(s): Null, Sarah E.
  • Bartolomeo, Eleanor
  • Lund, Jay R.
  • Hanak, Ellen
  • et al.

This paper presents insights from interviews with over 100 California water policy experts, who answered open-ended questions regarding California’s long-term water policy challenges and potential solutions. Interviews were conducted in the spring and summer of 2010, and interviewees were selected from a range of sectors and regions within California. Top long-term policy problems cited include management of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, dysfunctional institutions and water governance, unsustainable water supplies and flood management, poor environmental protection, and problems with water rights and valuing water. In addition to a range of specific management solutions, respondents emphasized the importance of public education, incentivized cooperation, more holistic water management, local innovation, and removal of regulatory obstacles as primary solutions to California’s long-term water challenges. There was little emphasis on new surface storage projects, except from politicians. Other respondents preferred local and regional approaches to improve water supply, such as conservation, groundwater banking, recycling, or stormwater management. Despite differences in opinion on the problems with implementation of the Endangered Species Act, there was broad agreement that environmental management approaches need to shift away from single-species, piecemeal approaches toward ecosystem-based, multi-species approaches.


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