Ban the Quad?

The grassy Quad is emblematic of university life. But its days may be numbered.

When I picture a university, I immediately envision the quad: an area of grass and trees surrounded by campus buildings, like the photo from one of America’s oldest universities accompanying this post.  But those beautiful lawns may need to go. That would be a bit sad, and not just because the students could lose a place to …


California Court Upholds State Water Board’s Broad Authority to Ban Unreasonable Uses of Water

Ruling is Especially Timely, Given California’s Ongoing and Severe Drought Conditions

I recently wrote about a then-pending court case in which California grape growers were challenging the State Water Resources Control Board’s limits on the growers’ diversion of water from California rivers and streams to provide frost protection for their grapes.  That litigation is important because it goes to the heart of the Board’s authority under …


California Enacts Emergency Drought Legislation

State Water Rights Reforms a Key Part of the Legislative Package

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This adage, attributed to Chicago Mayor and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, seems especially apt regarding emergency legislation enacted by California lawmakers and signed into law last weekend by Governor Jerry Brown in response to the worst drought in recorded California history. That …


It’s Not Waste, It’s An Ecosystem

Letting rivers flow supports ecosystems and people

One thing that droughts in the West provoke are political battles over water.  The drought that California is currently in is no exception.  Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have just passed a bill that would – more or less – exempt farmers in the Central Valley from environmental laws like the Endangered Species …


California Headed for Record Drought: Will Critically-Needed Reforms Follow?

Confronting a Looming Environmental Disaster

The Sacramento Bee’s fine environmental reporter, Matt Weiser, yesterday reported on a looming, major drought facing California and its regional neighbors. The figures aren’t pretty.  A persistent high-pressure front stretching over the Gulf of Alaska and most of the Northern Pacific has diverted the normal fall and winter storm track away from California and other …


Syria: The Wages of Climate Change

In considering the complex and painful question of whether to intervene in Syria, policymakers should take a close look at the memorandum published Monday on the Atlantic Monthly’s website by William R. Polk, a State Department Policy Planning Staff member during the Kennedy Administration.  I don’t agree with everything Polk says, but it is one …


The Future of the Colorado

The Bureau of Reclamation has issued an important new report on the future of the Colorado River.  The Colorado supplies drinking water to 40 million people and irrigation water to nearly 5.5 million acres of land. The report projects decreases in supply over the next fifty years, including a 9% decrease in average flow and a …


Destroying the Land in Order to Save It

In the middle of the worst drought in decades, the climate denying House of Ayn Rand Representatives was so intent on hacking apart Food Stamps that it couldn’t even figure out how to pass a farm bill.  (And the House Ag Committee version, it should be mentioned, was an abomination, maintaining egregious farm subsidies and …


Overdrafting California’s Groundwater Resources–A Chronic Condition

A recently issued study by a University of Texas-led group of research scientists confirm a discomforting fact: groundwater resources in California’s Central Valley are being depleted at an alarming rate.  As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the study warns that current groundwater extraction rates from the Central Valley aquifer–which is primarily mined to serve agricultural …


Heat Waves, Droughts, and the Energy System

According to the IPCC,  it “is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.” For instance, by midcentury, the number of heat wave days in Los Angeles is expected to at least double over the late twentieth century, and quadrupling is expected by the end of …