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Climate Change and Water in the West: A Q&A with Leon Szeptycki

By Devon Ryan

Leon Szeptycki is the executive director of Water in the West, a joint project by the Center and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Recently, Leon spoke with the Stanford News Service about the extremes of the western climate and the importance of seeking solutions for western water issues. 

Water in the West executive director Leon Szeptycki
Leon Szeptycki speaking at a Water in the West event in Sacramento in 2016

The American West has always been a region of water extremes – from droughts that parch the landscape one year to extreme wet weather and flooding the next – but scientists warn the climate of California and the American West is becoming even more extreme. Just recently California had the driest 4-year period on record from 2011 to 2015, and then 2016 to 2017 produced the wettest year on record for the state.

Water scarcity, groundwater depletion and frequent flooding threaten both the environment and society, and as those problems become more extreme so too will the conflicts between groups who want access to the water. In an attempt to resolve these problems, Stanford’s Water in the West program is integrating science and policy to find solutions for water users, resource managers and other stakeholders.

Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Water in the West and an environmental lawyer, discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the West and its water and explained why he’s optimistic about the future.

Read the full Q&A at the Stanford News Service