Apr 12, 2015

Research group launches California's first Center to address drought

Assistant Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist at U.C. Davis, Samuel Sandoval Solis, Ph.D., will lead the research for the Water Resources Management Management Group.

Samuel Sandoval Solis, PhD
SAN FRANCISCO —The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) today announced the establishment of a water policy center to help meet the state's urgent need for timely information and innovative water management solutions.

The PPIC Water Policy Center is being launched with $9 million in seed funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. The center builds on the successful model of strategic research and engagement that defines all of PPIC's work and represents a significant scaling up of effort and investment in water policy.

The center's creation comes at a time when the drought has spurred significant policy activity—from passage of a water bond to enactment of groundwater legislation. But the state needs to do more to meet the big challenges ahead—a growing population, changing climate, aging infrastructure, and deteriorating environment.

The PPIC Water Policy Center will strengthen the bridge between objective, rigorous research and real-world policy debates with the goal of putting water management on a sustainable path. It will focus on three critical, interrelated water management challenges facing California in the 21st century:

Ensuring clean and reliable water supplies. Investigating and encouraging comprehensive, integrated approaches to water quality and quantity.

Building healthy and resilient ecosystems. Promoting the development of healthy and sustainable ecosystems using practical approaches to watershed management.
Preparing for droughts and floods. Helping California adapt to an increasingly variable climate.

In conjunction with the launch of the PPIC Water Policy Center, PPIC released California's Water, a set of nine short policy briefs on the state's most critical water management challenges and the actions needed to address them. This briefing kit is designed to inform state leaders and to raise awareness more broadly about the important water management issues facing the state.

"Over the past decade, PPIC laid the groundwork with nonpartisan, high-quality research on major water policy issues," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. "The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation's generous support enables us to launch this new effort–to meet the state's information needs, help transcend traditional divides and find innovative ways to manage water."

PPIC senior fellow Ellen Hanak is director of the center. Hanak started PPIC's research program on water policy in 2001 and has published numerous reports and articles on California's water management challenges and opportunities. Hanak's career has focused on the economics of natural resource management and agricultural development. Before joining PPIC she held positions with the French agricultural research system, the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and the World Bank. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland.

In addition to PPIC experts, the center includes a broad research network, made up of top researchers who approach the state's water challenges from a range of disciplines, including biology, economics, engineering, geology, and law.

"If California's water is managed well, it can support a vibrant economy, society, and environment now and in the future," Hanak said. "But we will need new approaches that are practical, evidence-based, and scientifically sound. The PPIC Water Policy Center can play a major role in connecting policy to science."

Lauren B. Dachs, president of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, said the PPIC Water Policy Center is an excellent match for the foundation's focus. "California is at a crossroads in managing its water resources," she said. "We are pleased that the PPIC Water Policy Center will help advance sustainable solutions to meet the needs of the state's communities, farms, and environment."

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