Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

  • May 21, 2013 | 09:08 a.m.

    Hello: The IGERT as a boundary organization is very innovative! Can you describe some of the solutions that are being proposed to address the fact that annual legal allocations of water far exceed supply in California, and how these solutions might be implemented in practice? Thank-you.

  • Icon for: Nicolas Bambach

    Nicolas Bambach

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 01:35 p.m.

    One important aspect of our research it is to better understand and model the hydrology of the system. Even when we know that the supply it does not meet the legal allocation this does not indicate how reliable is the system. Once we better understand the supply through the year, we would connect this with demands estimations from crop models that include farmers behavior and other aspects that have not been take into account yet. Therefore, we would like to inform decision makers how to manage water resource facing a complex legal system, and a variable and changing climate.

  • Icon for: Derek Nixon

    Derek Nixon

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 01:44 p.m.

    One possible policy to address water scarcity is the expansion of water markets. Boundary organizations such as the Public Policy Institute of California have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of adopting this policy. A water market creates a mechanism for holders of potentially senior water rights that have low-value uses of the water, such as farmers planting lower value crops, to temporarily or permanently sell their water rights to high value potentially junior users of water, such as almond farmers or municipalities. Benefits include access to water for a high value user during periods of water scarcity and financial incentives to a low value water user for water conservation. A drawback is the potential impact on the local economy from which the low-value water right has been sold. Water markets substantially alter the existing first-in-line first-in-right appropriative-rights doctrine currently in place and would require the courts or the State Water Resources Control Board to make difficult decisions in order to reduce the total amount of water rights to a level matching the existing availability of water. This is one of the primary reasons that while some markets have been implemented, they have had limited adoption at a statewide level. On the other hand no action, as opposed to water markets or alternate policies, potentially cuts off high-value junior water rights users and environmental flows in favor of potentially low value senior water rights holders during periods where permits exceed existing water resources.

  • Icon for: Alison Whipple

    Alison Whipple

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 01:55 p.m.

    It seems the solution often ends up being the legal system when it comes to over-allocated water supplies. Many of California’s larger rivers are over-allocated, but this does not necessarily extend to the state as a whole. Part of the solution is for the State Water Resources Control Board to have the scientific research and monitoring to address a particular system that is over-allocated. That is, improving allocation is benefited by research that suggests the degree to which a system is over-allocated and what instream flows may be needed for ecosystem support.

    There are certainly roles for boundary organizations to help bring the science together on a particular over-allocation issue and help all parties understand the situation and various options better, regardless of whether the ultimate process is through the State Water Resources Control Board or the courts.

  • May 21, 2013 | 03:56 p.m.

    Pulling together a workshop including such diverse individuals is quite an achievement. I noticed in your poster that ideas from the workshop were generally heard and understood by participants, but that the numbers of respondents indicated that the ideas would influence decisions by their organization was quite low. Could you describe some of the possible reasons for this difference and how these problems might be overcome?
    Thank you,
    Catherine

  • Icon for: Michael Levy

    Michael Levy

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 02:57 a.m.

    Hi Dr. Gehring: Thanks for the kind words and the question; it’s a good one. My instinct was that we got a lot of survey responses from academic researchers who, by the nature of their institutions, don’t often influence organizational decisions. However, this turns out not to be the case: The percent of respondents from academia and government indicating that ideas from the workshop would influence decisions in their organizations were 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

    One potential issue is survey bias against responses from people in positions of power. We had quite a few directors and managers at the workshop, and while those people have the most direct ability to translate ideas from the workshop into organizational decisions, they tend to be very busy and perhaps unlikely to fill out a survey.

    Another potential explanation is that there is simply a lot of inertia in organizations working on California water issues, and it is difficult to translate new ideas into organizational decisions. If this is the case, it suggests a different approach to incorporating better science into management decisions – we don’t (just) need information transfer, we need institutional reform. We plan to host similar workshops in subsequent years; in the future we should include survey questions that get at this distinction.

    It’s worth noting that the trend you observed doesn’t seem to be driven by dissatisfaction with the workshop. There’s no apparent correlation between, e.g., ratings of how successful the workshop was at facilitating integration of knowledge or interest in attending subsequent workshops with agreement that workshop ideas will influence organizational decisions.

    Again, thanks for the question. Since one of our major goals is to improve management planning, it’s important that we think about how we can make the workshop more influential in future years.

  • May 23, 2013 | 12:25 p.m.

    Thank you, Michael.
    Catherine

  • May 21, 2013 | 06:41 p.m.

    Hello: Important research topic, interesting video, good narration. However, can you please explain what specifically would be done to better understand farmers’ social networks/behavior? What criteria will be used? How are you going to quantify different parameters used to understand farmers’ social networks/behavior? Thank you.

  • Icon for: Michael Levy

    Michael Levy

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 02:57 a.m.

    Hello Dr. Lefticariu: Thank you for the question – answering it (more comprehensively than I can here, of course) will be an important step toward my dissertation. Social networks are often measured by survey prompts such as, “Please list up to 10 individuals with whom you have communicated about farm management.” Then one can examine the extent to which individuals that are socially connected share behavioral patterns. My ultimate goal is to simulate farmer decision making as it is influenced by the farmer’s environmental, economic, and social factors, and as it influences the environmental, economic, and social systems within which the farmer operates. I plan to do this using an approach called agent-based modeling, wherein farmers are each represented as individual “agents” within a simulation model that also represents the relevant hydrologic and economic systems. As a simple illustrative example, a farmer’s crop-choice decision could be modeled as selecting the option that maximizes their expected economic return, but where traditional economic models would assume the farmer has complete knowledge of the system, we could limit the farmer’s knowledge to the expected returns of crops that their social connections have grown in the previous three seasons. From there, I’m sure you can imagine myriad ways to incorporate social network effects that could make the model more realistic (subject to testing, of course). One approach I am particularly optimistic about is including a penalty term in the above-mentioned maximization function for uncertainty around the economic return, which would be reduced as more of a farmer’s network connections have selected that option (e.g., if no one you know has ever used drip irrigation, you’ll be quite uncertain about its results, so it would have to be potentially very profitable for you to adopt it. On the other hand, if a dozen of your farmer friends have used drip irrigation, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how profitable that will be, so you’ll be more likely to adopt it if it will increase your returns). That suggests an economic approach, but a social diffusion approach could be used alternatively or in concert, wherein as more of one’s social connections select option A, the more likely the individual is to do the same. Following a diffusion of innovation framework, heterogeneity could be added to such a system by varying the threshold fraction of one’s connections that have adopted a behavior required for the individual to adopt. There are many possibilities, and a big open question in this science is how to represent that network influence. In the end, I will likely compare models using different parameterizations to see which has the most fidelity to the system being studied. I hope I have answered your question, if not, or if you have others, please follow up!

  • Icon for: J Yeakley

    J Yeakley

    Judge
    May 21, 2013 | 11:52 p.m.

    Hi all. Nice work! Can you provide more details on how you would represent decision making in the hydrologic models? Thank you, Alan

  • Icon for: Michael Levy

    Michael Levy

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 02:58 a.m.

    Hi Dr. Yeakley – thanks for the question. The technique agent-based modeling allows representation in a simulation of individuals or organizations as objects that can influence and be influenced by their environments and other agents. In California, agriculture is the predominant use of water, so we’ll start with representation of farmers as agents in a hydrologic model, each coupled to a specific parcel of land. Candidate farmer decisions to be modeled include crop choice, irrigation method, and irrigation source (groundwater vs. surface water). There are many potential ways to parameterize the behavior of agents including simple heuristics, cognitively-based models, statistical parameterization, and the rational-actor model of economics. One approach I’m optimistic about is a bounded rationality design with Bayesian updating, building on the approach of Ng et al. in their 2011 paper, “An agent-based model of farmer decision-making and water quality impacts…”. They modeled farmer decisions as maximization of expected return subject to a penalty for uncertainty around that return. As more farmers in their system have, for example, grown a certain crop, the variance around other farmers’ expectations about the yield of that crop decreases, shrinking the uncertainty “penalty,” making planting of that crop (if it’s expected to be profitable) more likely. Among other things, I’m thinking of adding to this the constraint that farmers don’t incorporate knowledge from the experience of all farmers in the system equally – as Dr. Prokopy points out in our video, they are influenced by their social connections; they know more about and weigh more heavily evidence from their social connections. I’d like to simulate farmer-agents that are situated in a social network and refine their expectations about various choices based on the experiences of their social connections. This could enable the emergence of diffusion-of-innovation processes from individual-level characteristics of social connectedness, profit motivation, and openness to innovation.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Presentation Discussion

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    Dr. Ledley

    Guest
    May 22, 2013 | 11:27 a.m.

    This is a great example of a transdisciplinary effort which is needed to address climate change. What are your next steps and to what degree will you be integrating the policy makers in taking those next steps? Can the policy makers see what questions they needed answered to make specific short and long-term decisions?

  • Icon for: Alison Whipple

    Alison Whipple

    Co-Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 09:54 a.m.

    Thanks for the question. We are currently synthesizing key outcomes of the workshop into a more formal document that will be shared with workshop participants as well as the broader community. In this process, we are building on the connections we made at the workshop through further conversations with policy makers and managers. Going forward, we will also continue to engage people around more specific topics related to our research. This will include invited seminar presentations as well as the continuation of the annual workshop. As we formalize our research questions, I know that I and others in my cohort are following up with individuals who might influence how we think about the problem and who might use our research. It was clear from the workshop that the integration between science and policy is a reciprocal process. Through the conversations between those doing the science and those developing policy from it, objectives can be defined and questions reframed. By developing these questions together, I may discover ways to adjust my research questions such that results directly inform decisions and policy makers and managers may find that there are new questions they should be addressing. This relates to your second question as well, in the sense that though policy makers do have many questions, particularly when it comes to specific short term decisions, it is through conversations like those at the workshop that questions are reshaped and questions to address longer term objectives are more clearly articulated.

  • Icon for: Tony Reames

    Tony Reames

    Trainee
    May 23, 2013 | 12:52 a.m.

    This is a great example of the conflict between climate change and human sustainability, a governing of the commons!

  • Icon for: Leah Rubin

    Leah Rubin

    Trainee
    May 23, 2013 | 01:19 p.m.

    I think the workshop was a really great idea; well done!

  • Icon for: Derek Nixon

    Derek Nixon

    Co-Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 01:34 p.m.

    Thank you! We enjoyed putting it on, learned a lot, and are looking forward to putting together an even better one next year!

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

  1. Michael Levy
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5137
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. Nicolas Bambach
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5422
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. James Farlin
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5331
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. Eric Kent
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5418
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. Derek Nixon
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5139
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. Alan Rhoades
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5138
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis
  1. Alison Whipple
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5203
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. University of California at Davis

Integrating Science & Policy for the Climate-Water Challenge in California

Ensuring a robust water supply for agriculture, industry, domestic use, and the environment is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the 21st century. Water shortages are already widespread, and climate change has the potential to dramatically exacerbate these shortages. California’s water supports 38 million residents, a two-trillion dollar economy, and the production of nearly half of US fruits, nuts, and vegetables. However, the state, and especially its agriculture, is precariously dependent on summer runoff of mountain snowpack. Annual legal allocations of water far exceed supply, and environmental needs are often not being met. We organized a two-day workshop to bring together leading academics, water managers, and key stakeholders to facilitate communication, collaboration, and integration. Through presentations, panel discussions, a poster session, and roundtable discussions, participants identified opportunities to improve integration of science, policy, and management, expand water management cooperation, and generate innovative cross-disciplinary research that provides managers and policy makers the decision-support science they need.