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About the Center

The PPIC Water Policy Center spurs innovative water management solutions that support a healthy economy, environment, and society—now and for future generations.

With the effects of climate change already affecting the state, California is at a crossroads in managing its water resources, freshwater ecosystems, and headwater forests. Crises like the 2012–16 drought, the near-failure of the Oroville Dam spillway in 2017, and massive wildfires in the Sierra headwater forests have sparked significant policy reforms, but much work lies ahead. With significant changes expected in the state’s population, economy, and climate—and pressures from aging infrastructure and a deteriorating environment—California must continue to develop meaningful, lasting, forward-looking water policies.

The PPIC Water Policy Center builds on the successful model of strategic research and engagement that defines all of PPIC’s work. It connects nonpartisan, objective research to real-world water management debates, with the goal of putting California water policy on a sustainable and constructive path. The center has fostered a vibrant, multidisciplinary research network and strengthened the bridge between science and policy.

Our focus
Water management doesn’t work in a vacuum; to be effective, it must also address areas where it intersects with land and air resources and environmental health. The center concentrates on three critical, interrelated challenges facing California’s water in the 21st century:


Ensuring clean and reliable water supplies: Investigating and encouraging comprehensive, integrated approaches to water quality and quantity; ensuring sustainable groundwater management; and building a shared understanding about equitable solutions that improve outcomes for the most vulnerable Californians.

Building healthy and resilient ecosystems: Promoting healthier, more climate-resilient ecosystems using practical approaches to watershed management.

Preparing for droughtsfloods, and wildfires: Helping California adapt to an increasingly variable climate to protect land, air, and water resources.

Our work
By bridging the gap between rigorous scientific research and complex policy problems, the center offers timely, credible, and actionable information on the state’s major water challenges. Publications range from short fact sheets to comprehensive, in-depth reports. Engagement efforts bring a full range of stakeholders to the table and provide a neutral forum for productive conversations. The PPIC Water Policy Center Blog delivers timely information and commentary on a wide variety of topics. Our work has inspired change on a range of water policy issues.

Our staff and network
The center is directed by PPIC vice president Ellen Hanak, and includes in-house experts as well as a broad research network—a dynamic group of top researchers with expertise in a range of disciplines, including climate science, ecology, economics, engineering, forestry, geology, hydrology, and law.

Our advisory council
The PPIC Water Policy Center advisory council consists of leaders in water issues from around the state. The center operates under the direction of the PPIC president and board of directors.

Our funders
The center has benefitted from the generous support and partnership of a number of engaged individuals and organizations. Launched with core support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and a significant commitment from PPIC, today the center is backed by a broad base of supporters who appreciate the vital need for a reliable, independent, and trusted broker in California’s water policy debate. To learn more about giving please visit our Support the PPIC Water Policy Center page.

2020: Year in Review

photo - White Water Rapids in California WinterTurning the Page on a Disruptive Year in the Water WorldLast year was one for the record books, with…Read more

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Featured Publication

photo-Eagle Falls and view of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaPriorities for California’s Water California’s water landscape was disrupted by the pandemic, recession…Read more

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