• Water resources

    analytics & policy

  • Water + Data

    Lauren is a multidisciplinary water resources analyst with a focus on the economics, science, and policy of urban and agricultural water use in California. She blends a statistical data science approach with experience in groundwater management, regional water policy, supply and demand forecasting, landscape ET measurement, remote sensing, and environmental market design.


    Watery things

    • Regional water policy in California and the Colorado River basin

    • Remote sensing of landscape ET

    • Markets for environmental flows

    • Urban water conservation

    • Water pricing and rate structures

    • Water-energy intensity

    • Distributional effects of markets

    • Sustainable Groundwater Mgmt Act

    • Agricultural water efficiency

    • Climate change impacts & adaptation

    • Uncertainty & risk management

    Other fascinations

    • Brazilian language and music
    • Desert canyoneering
    • Historical linguistics
    • Music theory & harmony
    • Space sciences & vintage space technology
    • Cephalopods
    • "the reproducibility crisis"
    • Machine learning
    • Data visualization
    • Ecological economics
    • Civic data science

    JoyFlow: a Shiny app for visualizing historical hydrology

    In 2017, a group of R data scientists popularized "joyplots", a neat way of stacking time series to reveal interesting cyclical patterns in the data. JoyFlow is a playful web app that lets you plot historical flows for any USGS stream gauge, revealing seasonal patterns and changes in the flow regime (such as the construction of Glen Canyon dam and the 1982-3 El Niño, seen in the Colorado River flows at left). h/t to @jfleck for inspiration.

    Climate change and the timing of runoff in California

    A simple data analysis to demonstrate the use of public data and reproducible reporting.


    Envisioning an urban market for conserved water in Southern California

    Client: Long Beach Water Department

    Masters Thesis Group Project (201415)


    Between 2012 and 2015, California experienced some of the driest years on record, in which the governor declared a statewide water emergency and State Water Project deliveries were reduced to 5%. Early appeals for voluntary conservation failed; it took a mandate from the governor in April 2015 to finally motivate many urban water agencies to reduce their water consumption by 25% below 2013 levels.


    We identify the current system of shortage allocation in urban Southern California as one area where the incentives for voluntary conservation could be stronger. The current system creates a 'share-the-pain' approach in which all agencies are asked to cut back by a more or less equal percentage, regardless of their previous conservation efforts.


    A rights-based approach to water allocation and trading would allow water agencies that proactively invest in conservation to receive a larger dry-year allocation, making it possible to store the water they save for their own use or sell the water to other cities during dry years. This system would create incentives for agencies to conserve even in wet years. Working with our client, the Long Beach Water Department, our team investigated the possibility of a market for inter-city water trading in Southern California. While ag→ag and ag→urban water transfers are becoming commonplace, robust urban→urban markets are still rare. The service areas of large urban wholesalers could provide ideal substrates for such a market due to their shared infrastructure, which eliminates the conveyance issue and enables 'paper water' trades. See our website for more information.


    We presented our research at AWRA's Spring Conference: Water for Urban Areas: Managing Risks and Building Resiliency (Los Angeles, 2015). Our team also participated in a panel entitled Market-based Approaches to Water Management at the 2015 California Water Policy Conference.


    A plume of sediment pours into the Straight of Juan de Fuca after the Elwha Dam was demolished

    The impact of dam removal on marine-derived nitrogen in tree-rings | Elwha River, Washington

    Can tree rings tell us anything about historical salmon returns on a freshly un-dammed river? A proposal for NSF's Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry grant program

    Faux pause? A new study says that global warming is still going strong

    A new paper in the journal Science casts doubt on the existence of the global warming “pause” that has received widespread media attention in recent years.

    A satellite view of Lake Chad and its basin. The lake has almost completely disappeared, leaving a green silhouette of vegetation where water used to be.

    Saving Lake Chad: An analysis of the proposed Oubangui-Chari water transfer

    A legal, scientific, & ethical analysis of a controversial proposal in central Africa

    Creating elegant graphics in R with ggplot2

    A tutorial written for graduate students at the Bren School (2014)
  • WORK

    Metropolitan Water District

    Los Angeles
    Associate Resource Specialist (present)


    I work within the Implementation Section of Met's Water Resources Management group, which ensures the year-to-year viability of Southern California's imported water supply. Our team performs economic and scientific studies related to the Colorado River system, the State Water Project, water purchases and transfers, storage and banking, and regional water conservation. My current focus is a long-term study of agricultural water use in the Palo Verde Valley, including policies to reduce consumptive water use while maintaining the local farm economy, and the development of new techniques to measure and analyze crop water use.

    RMC Water & Environment

    Santa Monica
    Water Resources Planner (2015)


    At RMC I worked with local California agencies on projects relating to sustainable groundwater management under SGMA, Urban Water Management Plans, demand forecasting, recycled water policy, and conservation ratesetting. Working with one of RMC's principals, I coauthored a $500,000 Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant proposal for San Joaquin County which was fully funded by DWR. The work plan incorporated innovative surface+groundwater modeling using IDC and ag water use estimation using remotely-sensed ET data.

    Long Beach Water Department

    Conservation & Planning Intern (2014)

    Columbia Technologies

    Field Geochemist (2007–2010; 2012–2013)

    West Coast Operations Manager (2009-10)

    From 2007 to 2013 I travelled all over the U.S. and a few other countries mapping groundwater contaminants at industrial sites using real-time sensor tools such as MIP and UVOST.


    University of California, Santa Barbara

    Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
    Master of Environmental Science and Management (2015)
    specializations in Water Resources Management and Economics & Policy

    University of Maryland, College Park

    Bachelor of Science, Geology




    I follow a specific philosophy of design in much of my work, taking inspiration from many pioneers of technical communication:



    Crisp, policy-relevant writing following the principles of Joseph Williams (Style: Toward Clarity and Grace) and Steven Pinker (The Sense of Style)


    Data Visualization

    Thoughtful graphical presentations of evidence based on the principles of Jean-Luc Doumont (Trees, Maps and Theorems), Edward Tufte (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Beautiful Evidence), John Tukey (Exploratory Data Analysis, Visualizing Data), and Stephen Few (Signal)


    Statistical Thinking

    Rigorous thinking about causality and experimental design, informed by the writings of Fisher (The Design of Experiments) and Tufte (Data Analysis for Politics and Policy), including Bayesian approaches per John Ioannidis (Why most published research findings are false) and Nate Silver (The Signal and the Noise)



    Engaging and persuasive live presentations, with visual design based on Doumont (Creating Effective Slides) and Tufte's critiques (The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint), and strategic communication techniques advocated by Sadie Crabtree (Winning Hearts and Minds)



    Elegant, reproducible technical reporting using LaTeX, Rmarkdown and knitr


    Encouraging conservation through tradeable allocations and market mechanisms

    The Water Report, June 2015

    Geoprobe newsletter
    Fall 2009

    Working with partner Millennium Environmental and client GeoTrans, Columbia Technologies developed an unusual workplan that allowed us to map chlorinated groundwater contaminants in a Los Angeles office park without exposing a deep aquifer to contamination from above.
    The Wall Street Journal

    August 26, 2009