Climate Change, Fire, and Forests have everything to do with California's water security

Leigh Bernacchi
April 14, 2016

Water and Fire conference leads to policy position paper

When Californians stop watching for snow and start preparing for fires is a perfect time to focus on policy and adaptation.

Water and Fire Conference 2016

The Institute on Science for Global Policy and California State University, Sacramento hosted a climate change conference to guide policy and science. Water and Fire: Impacts of Climate Change was a free and unique event that brought together five leading experts into a discussion forum with 200 decision makers, researchers and leaders.

On behalf of the UC Water directors and co-authors, Roger Bales, Professor of Engineering at University of California, Merced and Director of the UC Water research initiative, provided a policy position paper to catalyze discussion on forest management as water supply management. In "Foundations for California's Water Security in a Changing Climate" and a short presentation, he highlighted key adaptations available to the state that would require coordinated and funded efforts.

The paper’s primary policy issues incorporate water infrastructure, management institutions, and information for water security.

Bales, with UC Water colleagues, argues for a “modern, accurate, timely and transparent water resources information and accounting system” that covers the whole watershed, from the mountains to the valleys and underground aquifers.

In order to use this information, training and institutional changes are just the beginning. In terms of capacity building, Bales suggests that incentives and requirements for agencies to be data sources would empower a culture of information producers and users.

The conference goals focused on adapting to forest conditions under climate change for multiple needs, including intensity of forest fire reduction and considerations of water supply. For the mountain hydrologist, 

Water policy is actually forest policy: necessary, proactive restoration of drought-stricken Sierra Nevada forests would depend on integrated management from the State Water Plan to the US Forest Service.

Finally, groundwater supported California through the most recent drought, but in times of abundance we need to move toward recharge. The policy paper starts to outline agency partners for groundwater recharge, storage and recovery.

Bales et al. policy position paper will be assembled with Dr. Keeley’s on fire and Dr. Swanson’s on fish in a collection by the Institute on Science for Global Policy. A video of the conference presentations will also be available on the Sacramento State University website.

Bales, R., M. Conklin, J. Viers, A. Fisher, G. Fogg, M. Kiparsky. 2016. Foundations for California's Water Security in a Changing Climate. Institute on Science for Global Policy.