UCR hosts water symposium to discuss water scarcity and climate change

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On Thursday, May 12, UCR held an interdisciplinary water symposium, “Turbulent Futures: Water and Climate Change in Times of Crisis” from 4:15-6 p.m. in Winston Chung Hall 205. The conference was hosted by the Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training’s Water SENSE program to discuss and address water management and climate change.

The first speaker of the evening was archeologist Valerie Simon. Though currently retired, Simon previously served as a colonel in the military until 1993 then continued working for the government in the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Defense, Bureau of Indian Affairs prior to Peregrine SEMS. Simon’s lecture focused on her experience with the federal water management process. She described the many opportunities that allowed her to educate corporations and the government on proper maintenance of the Colorado water system, the expanding climate change crisis in Alaska and restoration projects.

The second speaker was Justin Scott Coe, water resources and community affairs manager of the Monte Vista Water District, whose lecture focused on sustainable water management from the perspective of public water agencies. He highlighted a 36 percent reduction in water usage in his district since 2007, which he found to be a direct result of the two consecutive droughts that have hit California, 2007-2009 and 2012-2016. Coe specified that “making conservation a way of life” is the new method to minimize water loss as well as working with efficiency through technology so that a steady water supply can be maintained.

The third speaker was Dr. William Deverell, professor of history from the University of Southern California, who focused on how our current water management is a reflection of the past. He spoke about the channelization of the Los Angeles River due to severe floods throughout the 19th and 20th century that cost millions of dollars in damage. In order to address and prevent recurrent floods, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District was formed in 1915 with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers. Channelization began in 1938 and was completed in 1960 to form a 51-mile engineered waterway that provided flood control with a consistent path for the river. This engineering was a big influence on the channelization of Colorado’s water supply to serve the needs of other states such as Arizona and Nevada.

All three speakers agreed on the flaws of the water management systems currently in place and requested the future generation to learn from the mistakes of the past and create an innovative supply of sustainable water.

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