Water resource education, research and policy experts gather in South Lake Tahoe

ucowr-thbLink to the full conference program(Lake Tahoe) -  Last week in South Lake Tahoe an international group of water resource education, research and policy experts gathered to discuss the important scientific and policy challenges of sustaining the planet’s water resources and ecological functions of pristine environments like the Lake Tahoe basin in a changing climate.

The annual meeting, presented by the Universities Council on Water Resources and National Institutes for Water Resources, was co-sponsored by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, Southern Illinois University and the Ivanhoe Foundation.

“It is very fitting that we’re having this discussion in Lake Tahoe,” said Alan Heyvaert, an Associate Research Professor at Reno’s Desert Research Institute and Co-Chair of the conference committee. “This region is a bit like the canary in the coal mine. We are on the forefront of water resources related research and education. Through collaborative monitoring and a diverse portfolio of ongoing research projects we’re able to share a collective understanding of how the Tahoe basin is responding to climate and anthropogenic stresses.”

Tuesday morning’s opening session featured a thought-provoking water policy discussion with Ross Miller, Secretary of State of Nevada and Patricia Mulroy, the General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Miller shared with the audience how frustrations between conservation groups, policy makers and resource managers led to a dramatic threat discussed in the 2011 Nevada Legislature to withdraw from the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Two years later, Miller explained, that single action has resulted in real discussions of the problems in the basin and a renewed level of commitment and cooperation by all the parties involved, including direct involvement from both Governor Brain Sandoval of Nevada and Governor Jerry Brown of California.  

Mulroy, who leads a progressive agency responsible for acquiring, treating and delivering water to local agencies that collectively serve two-million residents and nearly 40-million annual visitors in Southern Nevada, shared the measures that agencies like hers are preparing to make to prepare for the extreme consequences of less and less water availability in the West.

“We’re not going to conserve our way out of this,” she told the audience of more than 100 executives on Tuesday morning. “As climate change shows its ugly face on the nation’s water supply the worst thing we can do is keep the hyperbole going.”

Mulroy pointed out that the Las Vegas community already reuses 93 percent of its water.

“We’re already pushing the envelope when it comes to the easy solutions,” she said. “We have to diversify where our water comes from. And in arid regions like Nevada, that is an extremely hard thing to do.”

Miller and Mulroy helped kick off three days of technical programs, executive sessions and site tours around the Lake Tahoe basin. Topics included talks on Invasive Species Policy and Management, Agricultural Water Management, International Water Security and Urbanization and more.

Additionally, on the evening of Wednesday, June 12, long-time Tahoe local Heather Segale, U.C. Davis Education and Outreach Director was honored with the annual Education and Public Service Awards for her significant contributions to increase public awareness of water resource development, use and management. Jon Bartholic, Director of the Institute of Water Research at Michigan State University was honored with a similar award.  

For more information the Universities Council on Water Resources please visit - http://www.ucowr.org/

For more information on the Desert Research Institute’s work in the Lake Tahoe basin please visit – http://www.dri.edu/lake-tahoe-watershed


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