Seeing is Believing: Stanford researchers visualize California’s drought

A new web portal puts four years of California drought data into an interactive format, showing where regions met or missed water conservation goals.
“Out of the past 50 years, more than half have been dry years in California.
So at a certain point, we’re going to have to accept that extremes are actually the norm and learn to adapt to our new climate reality,” said Newsha Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford’s Water in the West program.
“The fear is that even though we just went through the worst drought in history, people are already losing momentum in conserving water and being prepared for the next dry period.” In order to motivate continued action on water conservation and drought preparedness, Ajami and her team developed a new interactive web portal using data from almost 400 utilities from across the state that visualizes how they performed between 2014 and 2017.
Newsha Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy, Patricia Gonzales, PhD student, and Kim Quesnel, PhD student, discuss and present the visualization.
In 2015, Governor Brown gave the first-ever mandate to conserve water with the goal of reducing water use by 25 percent.
The web portal allows users to look up how different water utilities in the state did in terms of water conservation during the drought, as well as their region’s performance and whether there was backsliding once the mandated conservation targets were lifted.
The analysis found that much of the water savings experienced by utilities were from policies to limit outdoor watering to a couple days per week and behavioral changes around outdoor water use.
A tool for everyone The researchers also found that the media coverage, which raised public awareness and educated the state’s population about the drought, corresponded with behavioral changes in water conservation among the public.
Socioeconomic factors also played a role.

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