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Water in the West

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The western United States needs water systems that are sustainable from economic, ecological, political, institutional, equitable, scientific and legal points of view. The American West is an arid region to begin with explosive growth and increased drought are creating a water crisis. Research can help solve this crisis, but research alone is not enough.

Stanford University established Water in the West in 2010 to create new practical solutions that move the region toward a more sustainable water future. Water in the West marshals the resources of one of the world’s preemi­nent research institutions to address one of the most urgent questions about the West’s future— how can the region continue to thrive despite growing water scarcity?

Water in the West bridges the gap between research and practice to create and promote effective solutions for more sustainable water management in the American West. The program’s current projects include sustainable groundwater, water and energy, watershed health, and water allocation and management. Program staff and researchers  envision a world, in the near future, where water is managed in a way that satisfies urban demands, fulfills the needs of agricultural production, and restores ecosystems – free from the conflict common in the history of western water allocation. Water in the West pursues this mission through cutting-edge research, creative problem solving, active collaboration with decision-makers and opinion leaders, effective public communications and hands-on education of students, the “next generation of problem solvers. This way, the program works to achieve more effective water management for both today and the future.

Current areas of focus include sustainable groundwater, water and energy, watershed health and water management and allocation.

Water in the West is a joint program with the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University.

Learn more at

Fact Sheet




Barton Thompson

Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, Professor at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment