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From Dry Wells to the White House: Ryan Alaniz and the International Drought Summit

International Drought Summit

California is facing the worst drought in 1,200 years.  Taking into account rising temperatures and changes in the atmosphere, the situation for our state water supply is concerning.  It is even more dire for farmers who lack water for food crops and for families who watch helplessly as their wells run dry.

With the support of CLA Dean Epperson, Dr. Ryan Alaniz directed a conference in which we could discuss strategies to mitigate the water scarcity crisis.  Cal Poly also partnered with the United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security, and the MunichRe Foundation to host the week-long Disaster by Drought Summit.  Sixteen United Nations researchers and dozens of scholars and practitioners from the Western United States participated, giving talks about the impact of drought on everything from infrastructure to impacts on field laborers to desalination projects.  More than 900 students, community members, and faculty joined the conversation.

During the summit Dr. Alaniz received an invitation from the White House National Security Council (NSC) to write a policy brief on our collective findings.  Drawing on the knowledge of twenty-one experts, he and two co-authors spent four months writing the five-page document.  The NSC views the California drought as a national security threat, since California produces more than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts.  In addition, the NSC was preparing to compose a Presidential Memorandum on drought, and was seeking innovative ideas and strategies to inspire and incorporate into the directive.

The NSC valued the contribution, and Alaniz was invited to attend the White House Water Summit in March 2016, during which President Obama’s memorandum was presented.  Many of the recommendations from the policy brief Alaniz sent can be found in the memorandum, which guides the national drought and water security strategies.

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