12th Symposium on Education


Water in the West—Educating for Change

Judith G. Maben, Water Education Foundation, Sacramento, CA; and S. McClurg

Imagine for a moment a California where the average daily temperature is five degrees warmer, where the typical long, dry summer is altered by rainstorms, where winter in the Sierra Nevada brings less snow and more rain, and where the Pacific Ocean has risen several feet, forever altering the coastline. It is a future in which droughts and floods could be more severe, unseasonal rain could arrive during a crucial harvest period, levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could be overcome by rising sea levels, which could also foul coastal groundwater basins with salt water.

Scientists predict that a rise in temperature will mean a rise in the snow line in the mountains, reducing the amount of water stored in the snowpack. Dam operators will face a double-edged sword in a situation that will call for a need to store more of the precipitation in reservoirs for use during hotter summers, and a need to keep reservoir levels low enough to accommodate heavy runoff from winter storms that could flood the valleys.

The water distribution system in California is one of the most complex in the world, with federal, state and locally owned pipelines shunting water resources around to farms and cities. But weather and hydrology are not the only driving forces in the consideration of water policy issues. Politics, economics and environmental concerns complicate even the simplest water resource management decisions. Who are the players in the Western water game? Within what parameters must water managers operate? How will the rules change? Most importantly, how will the public be educated to make wise decisions regarding resource management and environmental laws? And how can partnerships be crafted to deal with inevitable change?

Education of scientists, water managers, politicians, the general public and school children about water is vital to being able to cope with the inevitable variability of water supply and quality. The Water Education Foundation has been a unique source of educational materials and programs in the west for over 25 years. The Foundation provides curriculum materials, periodicals, books, technical tours, executive briefings, legal seminars and public television documentaries to help citizens and decision makers understand the parameters of water resource management in the West.

Session 3, Special Session on Water and the Water Cycle: Part I
Monday, 10 February 2003, 1:30 PM-2:30 PM

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