June 16, 2014

For Immediate Release


Water in the West is the Focus of Two New Policy Briefs

Water scarcity in the Western U.S. is the topic of two new policy briefs from the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center (NARDeP). The briefs describe the current water-supply situation both in California and in the Colorado River Basin and provide recommendations for communities and policy makers who face insufficient water supplies.


Water Scarcity and the California Economy” is a three-page brief that, with economic and water-use data, illustrates the state’s successes in adapting to a variable water supply and highlights innovative approaches that have helped Californians to prosper economically while also reducing water usage.


“California’s per capita water use has steadily declined in the last 15 years, while its economy and population have grown. Clearly, the state has been coping well with limited water supplies,” said Ellen Hanak, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and the brief’s author. “That said, crises such as the current drought provide us with opportunities to assess vulnerabilities and to consider policy changes.”


Hanak lays out some of the state’s vulnerabilities that the current drought has made apparent —declining aquatic ecosystems and groundwater basins, rising vulnerabilities in the agriculture sector, and weaknesses in the state’s water infrastructure network — and discusses implications of these shortcomings from a policy perspective.


The second brief, “Facing an Uncertain Colorado River Basin Future,” provides a detailed explanation as to how the Colorado River is allocated in the region, and how the release of a 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study has galvanized working groups within the region to examine the potential ways in which municipal and agricultural sectors can close the projected gap between supply and demand.


“One thing this study makes clear is that communities throughout the Colorado River Basin must consider their water futures,” said Sharon Megdal, director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center and author of the brief. Megdal poses several discussion questions that will help communities in the Colorado River Basin and beyond as they plan for their water futures.


“Water Scarcity and the California Economy” and “Facing an Uncertain Colorado River Basin Future,” are the latest in a series of NARDeP policy briefs that explore the increasingly contentious and complex agricultural and rural development issues facing the U.S. They are available online at the NARDeP website, along with all the briefs in the series.


NARDeP was organized in 2012 by the four US Regional Rural Development Centers and is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under a competitive grant (Number 2012-70002-19385). A virtual center based at Penn State University, it engages land-grant universities as well as national organizations, agencies, and experts to develop and deliver timely policy-relevant information around signature areas identified by its advisory boards. More information about NARDeP is available at http://www.nardep.info.