Southern California has a long history of disputes over water resources. In the early 1900s, William Mulholland, the superintendent of the newly created Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, secured the rights to Owens Valley, an area that receives a large amount of snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada. In 1913, a 233-mile-long gravity-fed aqueduct diverted water from the Owens River to the semi-arid city of Los Angeles. By 1928, the aqueduct had drained Owens Lake absolutely dry, starting what was termed the California Water Wars. Battles between cities, districts, industry, and agriculture over water rights elsewhere in the state have raged for decades.
With the growing world population and global climate change, water resources are becoming an increasing cause of conflict. As part of the Earth Day celebration, the Santa Barbara Coalition for Global Dialogue is hosting a public policy forum titled Thirst for Security: Global Water and Tomorrow’s Armed Conflicts. Julie Bowden, coalition cochair, said that the dispute over water resources is a timely and critical environmental issue in the Santa Barbara area as well as globally. “We wanted to bring in people who could present the information in a coherent and manageable way for the citizens of Santa Barbara to grasp the urgency of this issue.”
Four distinguished authorities on global water issues will give keynote speeches in their area of expertise. Jeff Dozier and Hilal Elver, both professors at UCSB, as well as Jerome Dell Priscoli, an engineer with the U.S. Army Engineer Institute for Water Resources, and Engin Konagul, the United Nations case studies coordinator for the Paris UNESCO World Water Assessment Program, will discuss the recent UNESCO Water Summit in Turkey, describe the areas of conflict around the globe and the use of mediation in resolving water conflicts, as well as examine the existing water crises on the western slopes of North America. They will explore how investment in water management can help build social stability and security to avoid societal warfare.
Following the presentations, the speakers will exchange comments before they take questions from the audience. Stan Roden, attorney-mediator-arbitrator, will moderate the discussion. The forum takes place Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Fe Bland Auditorium on Santa Barbara City College’s West Campus.