“Water We Gonna Do?”

March Great Story by Marina Deligiannis, 2017-18 Central Inland Water Fellow

I’ve always been drawn to the water.

From the early ages of swim lessons, my parents quickly learned it was a lot easier getting me in the water then taking me out of it. As a young child, I have fond memories exploring the creeks and streams that were around me. Growing up in a rural farm town in Illinois, I would look forward to our monthly visits to the Chicago Shedd Aquarium where some of my favorite memories were made watching the marine life swim and learning about the deepest depths of the ocean.

As I got older, this unacknowledged magnetic draw to water grew ever more present as I aspired to become a marine biologist. It wasn’t until early in my college career where I acknowledged that playing with sea life may not be the thing that was drawing me to the field of marine biology. A couple geography and environmental science classes later, I quickly realized an overall interest in the idea of water. What water was and how water plays a role in the lives of humans and ecosystems around the world.

Since then, I have explored many waves (pun intended) of the water world. From wetlands, to agricultural runoff, storm water, drinking water, how water has shaped a landform, to now, water policy in the west.

As I am serving this year as a CivicSpark water fellow immersing myself into the water world specifically in California, I am realizing just how all of these are connected and how like many things in the world, are controlled by policy.

This past month, all twenty of the 2017-2018 water fellows had the opportunity to attend the UC Davis California Water Policy Conference 27, Water We Gonna Do? This conference brought together people from all different backgrounds to think about some of the pressing water supply challenges that the state has previously faced, currently facing, and is in danger of facing in the coming years. Farmers, government officials, environmental advocates, water agency officials, and the future leaders of the water world all sat down at this two day event to bounce ideas off of one another all revolving around our most precious natural resource, water.

Although the panels often ended with more questions than when they began, and many issues discussed ended with the solution of not quite having a solution at all, I think I can speak for everyone in attendance in saying that this conference was just another step in the right direction.

When we talk about solutions to the water challenges we are facing today throughout the State there is often times a negative, pessimistic, and sometimes hopeless attitude towards these conversations. But Water Conference 27 was different; this conference was filled with professionals from all different backgrounds bringing different perspectives, ideas, and experiences with the goal of discussing California’s future in terms of water.

From the California Department of Water Resources, Karla Nemeth’s updates on the water projects for the coming year to my personal discussion with Author of “Water is for Fighting Over: And Other Myths about Water in the West,” John Fleck about Cape Town’s Water Storage and how that relates to the California water world, I took a lot away with me from this conference. Besides a new network of professional and peers in this industry, and the pages on pages of notes I took during the discussions but I also took with me an assurance of the path I have decided to go down.

This conference also reminded me that there is one thing that I might like just as much as water, and that’s a challenge. So as I am flowing down this winding river of California’s water world, I can’t help but be eager and determined to do my best in solving some of the most complicated and difficult water issues California has to offer.