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.
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.
Envisioning an urban market for conserved water in Southern California
Client: Long Beach Water Department
Masters Thesis Group Project (2014–15)
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.
The impact of dam removal on marine-derived nitrogen in tree-rings | Elwha River, Washington
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.
I follow a specific philosophy of design in much of my work, taking inspiration from many pioneers of technical communication:
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)
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