A compliment to Episode 8, an in-depth discussion with Seth Arens of the Western Water Assessment breaking down climate models and executing stakeholder climate/drought planning. Get your science hat on and let’s get to work!
Brian Lebrecht , President of Clyde Snow & Sessions 0:01
This podcast is brought to you by the law firm of Clyde Snow and Sessions, based in Salt Lake City with offices in Oregon and California. For over 65 years Clyde Snow has represented clients throughout the West. Clyde Snow: Serious About Solutions.
Emily Lewis, Host 0:22
Hello, and welcome to Ripple Effect, a podcast putting water into context. I’m Emily Lewis, your host, and I’m a water attorney here in Salt Lake City, Utah, practicing creative solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s water problems. Welcome to the conversation.
Hello, and welcome to the ninth episode of Ripple Effect a podcast putting water into context. Today I have with me Seth Arens, who wears numerous hats in the water field, which he’ll kind of explain in a little bit. The reason I wanted to have Seth here today is because I really wanted to have an opportunity to discuss some of the on the ground projects and work that numerous climate agencies and universities are working on here in Utah and the West regarding drought planning and stakeholder engagement. And so I thought Seth would be a great person to explain what he’s doing with his projects, and to set the tone for a conversation about how we can incorporate more science into our water policy and water management discussions. So Seth, could you kind of give me just a brief overview of what your background is, what your education is, and kind of the various organizations that you work with currently, and then I’d love to talk about some of the specific projects that you have going on.
Seth Arens, Guest 1:44
Certainly, thanks for the invitation here to speak on your podcast. So I work as a research scientist for Western Water Assessment. A Western Water Assessment is a University of Colorado based research program. We’re funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And we go about climate related and water resource related research from a little bit of a different angle. We seek to work with stakeholders, resource managers, be they land managers, water managers, to understand how they might use climate information in their planning, and then work with them to develop that kind of research. So to do this kind of work, I actually have a pretty diverse background in science at this point, I’m in some ways I wear lots of hats, and I’m a bit of a generalist in science. My background is in ecosystem ecology. I’ve done some work in both the Alaskan and Greenland Arctic. During graduate school, I looked at climate change impacts on both low Arctic and High Arctic ecosystems. I’ve also done quite a bit of work in the field of air pollution and atmospheric science here in the state of Utah. In working as a graduate student at the University of Utah, I got interested in the air pollution issue here along the Wasatch Front, and studied air pollution, deposition in Wasatch mountain snow. And after graduate school that led to working with the division of air quality, where I worked as an environmental scientist, conducting research, especially on ozone around the state of Utah, and also working to maintain and develop the permanent air monitoring network here in the state of Utah. And I’ve been working in this position with Western Water Assessment now for about five years.
Emily Lewis 3:36
Great. And they’re a regional organization, correct?
Seth Arens 3:41
Yes, so we’re based out of the University of Colorado in Boulder. But we’re funded to work regionally in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. And myself, I’m based in in Salt Lake City currently have an office at the University of Utah, and I’m affiliated with the global change and sustainability Center and the water center. So I was hired specifically to work in Utah on Utah issues.
Emily Lewis 4:09
Awesome. And we have some issues to work on. So that’s great. So can you give me an example of like a specific project that the Western Water Assessment would kind of work on, like, what is like the day to day of your job and kind of the ins and outs of what you do? And how you kind of accomplish the mission of that organization?
Seth Arens 4:28
Well, so I’d say the day to day work is kind of twofold. We are a research organization and conduct original research. However, we also spend a lot of time and I do personally interacting with just to speak really generally, stakeholders and by stakeholders, I mean, essentially any organization that might use climate information for management. So this usually amounts to different water management organizations, different resource management agencies both at the state, federal and local government levels, and work with kind of all levels of government. So the day to day of my job is kind of twofold. One, developing and maintaining those connections with different stakeholders or users of climate information. And then the second kind of day to day duty is working on some of that actual research which can be varied, and is really driven by needs of users of this climate information.
Emily Lewis 5:33
So then, do you identify the organization first, and then kind of design a research project that meets their needs to answer their questions? Or do you come to them with some data points and say, hey, we’ve been looking at this already, you know, this might be helpful to you? Is it kind of a you go to them or they come to you? Or how do you establish what a project per organization looks like?
Seth Arens 5:57
Sure, projects, that’s a good question and and Western Water Assessment, we don’t really have a prescribed recipe on how those projects come about. Most often, they come about, just through interactions with resource managers or different levels of government. By my efforts to try and understand how different organizations use climate information, and what kind of information they might need, but don’t have. So most often projects come from spending time with stakeholders, understanding what specific research needs they have. And then when those fit into a category, that’s something Western Water Assessment can help them with, or often, I will partner with other universities and other researchers to develop a collaborative group to then address their question.
Emily Lewis 6:52
And so if you could kind of unpack it just a little bit for us. You know, a lot of the listeners to this podcast are kind of run the gamut from, you know, attorneys to managers to just kind of interested citizens who have an interest in water. Can you unpack a little bit about what a specific project would look like, from a research side? Like, are you putting in like streamflow monitors? Are you assessing evapotranspiration or like, you know, if you could just like pick a specific project that you worked on, like the last year or so like, what what does the research side of that look like?
Seth Arens 7:27
Sure, the research side is not usually as you suggested about installing new instrumentation to collect brand new data, a lot of the original research that goes on at Western Water Assessment has to do with developing specific climate projections, looking at historical climate information to put that in context for the questions that a particular stakeholder has, often we will partner with other scientists who do some of that original research and then incorporate that into the work that we do.
Emily Lewis 8:01
Got it. So you’re kind of looking more like macro trends and kind of like projections forward looking and not so much the day to day data points.
Seth Arens 8:09
Yes, yes, exactly. And I think one way to look at the work that Western Water Assessment does, is many times our organization organizations like ours, there’s actually 10 other organizations that are funded by the same NOAA program that we are to work regionally, within the United States, the general mission of this NOAA program, the recent program, the regional integrated sciences, and Assessment Program, is to help the nation prepare and adapt for climate variability, and climate change. So one thing that my organizations often call is the boundary organization. And what I mean by that is that we work kind of in two different worlds, we work in the research science world, and we work in the management world, not to the degree that we are actually managing resources, but we interact with resource managers frequently. So we act as information purveyors, between both of those groups sometimes to help inform researchers, what those applied questions are that managers really care about. And on the management side, to help resource managers answer the specific applied questions that they have about climate and water.
Emily Lewis 9:30
What are some of those applied questions like when you have a project, and you’ve kind of identified how you can be useful to the managers, you know, what are some of the questions they’re asking or seeking to have answered?
Seth Arens 9:41
So a lot of those questions say, when it comes down to – let’s just talk about water management and water supply. A lot of those questions really have to do with well, what’s the future climate going to look like? And how is that going to impact water availability over the last for example, over the last year and a half I’ve been working with Weber basin water conservancy district that provides the wholesale water provider to much of the Northern Wasatch Front to develop a climate vulnerability assessment for that organization. So it’s both looking at historical climate historical streamflow, developing projections of future climate future streamflow, and then taking that a step further. And well, how is that going to impact their water system as a whole, not just from the physical science side of it, but from the water delivery side of it using a water systems analysis approach. And then how are these changes in climate going to impact their availability of water and ability to deliver water?
Emily Lewis 10:50
Hmm, so it sounds like – I’m assuming then you kind of work with their in house engineers a lot and kind of look at – you mentioned, like a water system study, are they kind of like the engineering side and you’re then kind of like the science side?
Seth Arens 11:03
Yes, this project, we were consulting with managers, not so much the engineers on a on a routine basis, but the the general managers to then work with the engineers on this project to make sure that we’re addressing the questions that they’re looking to have addressed, and that some of the ways in which their water system works are being portrayed in the systems analysis. And this is one of those cases where myself working for Western Water Assessment, I, as an individual don’t have the skills to carry out the entirety of a project like that. And I act, we act as that boundary organization, both providing original information and bringing together a collaborative group.
Emily Lewis 11:50
What have you found from doing projects, you know, in northern Utah versus other areas of the state or other Colorado, Wyoming projects you work on? What have been some heavier reflections on working in these projects in different areas?
Seth Arens 12:04
Well, I mean, each part of those three states, you know, does have different regional climate impacts. So that you know, the question about future water use and how climate is going to impact that is just one I’ve addressed on in two different areas along the Wasatch Front, so I can’t specifically speak to how water use and potential evapotranspiration is changing, specifically in other parts of the region. However, different parts of this three state region face different challenges, for example, the Four Corners region, so here in southeastern Utah, Southwestern Colorado, that part of our region has largely been in drought since about the year 2000. They’ve been in nearly well over a 20 year drought at this point, they had a very good water year, last year, so the 2018-2019, and that was the first good water year that had in many years. And that area was prior to that by the end of 2018, was in severe to extreme drought recovered from that somewhat, and now that region is back into very severe drought. So that’s a region where it’s hard to say what the longer term trends are. Because in the Intermountain West, if you look back into longer time scale climate records, such as those using tree rings, to learn something about path, streamflow of rivers and moisture, this region is prone over the last 600 years timescale or 1000 year timescale, to decade and multi decade droughts. So the fact that there’s a 20 year drought in the southwest, doesn’t necessarily mean that that is specifically happening because of climate change.
Emily Lewis 14:00
It could be a natural cycle?
Seth Arens 14:02
Yeah, there is very much a natural cycle involved in that. And the temperatures over these last 20 years have been hotter than earlier in the 20th century. So warming is significantly making that drought worse, that drought may have already would be there regardless of climate change, but because of higher temperatures, that’s exacerbating drought. So that’s something that every part of the Intermountain West is going to be facing, when there is drought temperatures are warmer now than they were earlier in the 20th century, and will be in the future. And that’s going to exacerbate drought.
Emily Lewis 14:45
And so what are some of the data points that you actually look at to like make these projections? You mentioned tree rings earlier, you know, in your introduction, you kind of talked about deposits on snow as a data point for figuring out melting in a single state. Some circumstances like when you’re making these projections to inform managers like what are the data points that you actually look at and collect and interpret.
Seth Arens 15:12
It’s twofold. I always like to put historical context to any future projections. And I also like to talk about the aspects of climate that we are more certain about, we’re certain about historical climate, and we have good climate records, including streamflows, that go back to about 1900. So that’s always good context to put any discussion about future climate or water availability. And you know, what’s, what does this look like in the past? What are the trends? What’s the variability? So historical climate is one of those data points. And then the other data point, and sometimes that historical climate goes back further than what historical climate is considered the observational record. And that goes back to 1900, late 1800s.
Emily Lewis 16:07
And are those observational records- what specific records are you talking about? Are those records just like when the pioneers came, their observations on a streamflow? Are you talking about early like, public land survey system, USGS records what is the agency or the primary documents that you actually go to to collect those observations.
Seth Arens 16:26
I mean, agencies such as NOAA, and the National Weather Service, United States Geological Survey, they take care of stream flow. And many of these records are that are going back to not long after the pioneers settled. And these are actual instrumental records, that were meteorological stations or streamflow sites that were set up in the late 1800s, early 1900s. And then as you move forward in time, closer to present, there’s more and more weather, there’s more and more data points that are available.
Emily Lewis 16:59
Yeah, I listened to Beyond the 100th Meridian by Wallace Stegner and that just talks about, sensibly, John Wesley Paul’s career and you know, so much of John Wesley Paul’s career is focused on, his exploits down the Grand Canyon. What I found was amazing, was basically like the creation of the USGS and kind of like the public land survey system, and how he was so precient in like getting information, you know, like how important it was to have information for the settlement of the West and kind of how he was just really ahead of his time in terms of, we got to figure out how much water is here and put the people where the water is, and not just carve this up into big square spaces, which we did not take his advice on.
Seth Arens 17:45
But the legacy of data that was created, that was beginning to be collected there around the end of the 19th and 20th century and as a climate scientist, those long term records of data are very important in looking at trends and trying to see where future climate is going. So to answer the question of the other data that I often look at those actual data points are then projections from global climate models about future climate, and those global climate models, then there’s also ways that you can take those large scale global climate models, which look at both historical and future climate, over relatively large geographic areas. So something like anywhere between, you know, one degree by one degree to two degrees by two degrees on the land surface, and there’s ways to using mathematics and statistics to what we call downscale that data, so it’s more relevant to a mountainous region, such as Utah. I look at that data to then project future climate. And that’s not information I create as a scientist for Western Water Assessment, that’s information that’s available, but then can be analyzed in different ways to ask, asking the answer different questions about future climate,
Emily Lewis 19:13
And those inputs into those models, I’m assuming they’re just kind of like, are they like, you know, this is the temperature change that’s projected, or these are the conditions on the ground based on you know, the data you just stated? Because I do think, you know, as a casual observer, and I don’t necessarily know, the water community would fall into the casual observer place, but you know, more of an interested observer, we hear so much about models, and this model says this, or this model says that what goes into the model to give you the outputs at the end, is it just the historical data and then variables for future change? Or you know, how, as a non scientist, you know, could you just kind of break down a little bit about kind of like, what those models look at, and how you can have confidence and kind of what they’re projecting for the future.
Seth Arens 19:59
Certainly So a climate model is, you know, firstly, it needs that observational data to describe the climate system, the climate system, the global climate system is extremely complex. And when it comes down to it, we don’t have enough observational data to completely describe the global climate system. So all of the observational data, the actual real data that can possibly be used in a climate model is then used, then there’s lots of other what we call parameters within a climate model that we don’t have observations to directly describe. So then there’s a process called parameterization. In climate models, where some of these other climate variables that you need to describe the climate system that we only have, we don’t have any observational data of or we don’t, we have limited observational data of meaning it doesn’t cover the whole globe enough. Those are essentially estimated, based on principles of physics, and how air moves and how the climate system works.
Emily Lewis 21:14
And those variables, could you give me a good example of one of the variables that you use include, like you just mentioned, airflow or air movement?
Seth Arens 21:22
So let’s say vertical motion of air, within each grid cell across the globe, we don’t have direct observation in every grid cell of how air is moving vertically from the ground surface, up to the upper reaches of the troposphere, which is the lower part of the atmosphere that the climate system really, largely exists in. We don’t have all of the observational data to describe that. So climate scientists use, they parameterize some of those variables to then be able to fully explain the climate system. So as a scientist who then uses some of those data, there’s other scientists who have looked at all these different climate models, compare them together. And we know something about certain climate models explain these parameters in certain ways. And that might not be good for describing climate in a certain region. But it’s good for describing climate in another region. So, you know, for example, when I look at climate in Utah, I know that there are some climate models that really give a solution to climate that’s extremely wet, and it’s not very likely to happen. And sometimes I might not consider specific climate models, because they don’t describe the historical climate for a specific region very well.
Emily Lewis 23:02
It’s not a good fit
Seth Arens 23:03
Maybe it’s good for the East Coast, but maybe they’re not useful for Utah, a specific climate model.
Emily Lewis 23:09
Awesome. And that’s why you kind of also need to have observational data to give you some underpinning of kind of making an assessment of whether or not it’s applicable, having some kind of on the ground understanding what’s happening, it gives you the expertise to make those kind of decisions. Yeah, cool. Very interesting. Yeah, I wish that, um, one thing about the water community that provides endless entertainment and endless curiosity is that it affects so many silos of information, you know, and coming from a legal perspective, I look at Oh, what does the law allow us to do? Part of the purpose of having this podcast is to bring in those other voices that, you know, are also having the same discussion in a way, but just in a very different medium. You know, climate model to me is like, Oh, yes, those models exist out there. But actually breaking down kind of like how those models work and what’s in them, you know, is something that I’m interested in learning more about, and kind of why I wanted to have you on the podcast, because, you know, so much of our management is going to be based on the science and understanding kind of like what the science is and how its interpreted. I think it’s just really, really important one to come to good conclusions, but two just to have confidence in those conclusions.
Seth Arens 24:22
Right. And that’s one thing I brought up before when I talk about climate, I like to focus on the things I’m most certain about. So, for example, with looking at future climate, all climate models are agreeing that the state of Utah is going to have increasing temperatures in the future. And there’s agreement on that between all the climate models, it’s just a matter of how much that temperature is increasing. And there’s less variability between each climate what each climate model is saying than there is between the different emission scenarios. So, as a scientist, I’m very certain about a range of temperature increase for Utah in the future. And I know that just that increase in temperature alone is going to have certain effects on climate, especially when we’re thinking about water. However, with precipitation, precipitation for the state of Utah in particular, is a little bit more uncertain. Not all climate models agree on the direction of change of precipitation. Some climate models project, a slight decrease in precipitation, some climate models project, a slight increase in precipitation. For northern Utah, if you look at say, a suite of 20, or 30, climate models and average out the changes in precipitation, you see, a slight increase in precipitation may be on the order of about 5% by mid century. However, if you look at individual climate models, there’s disagreement there. And that’s because of just the climate patterns here in the Intermountain West. And if you move to the northwestern United States, climate models agree there’s going to be an increase in precipitation, you move to the southwest down in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, Southern California, climate models agree there’s going to be a decrease in precipitation. So here in northern Utah, while this change in precipitation is obviously very important on water availability, I also know that that increase in temperature is going to have specific impacts on the water cycle. For example, a warmer climate is going to produce more rain and less snow. So you know, a future change is going to be not that we’ll lose all snowpack in Utah, but that lower elevation snowpack will not be there won’t be as much low elevation snowpack in the future. We also know with warmer temperatures that’s going to cause more evaporation and more transpiration by plants. So there’s going to be a higher demand for water by natural landscapes during summer. So these are some things I mean, when I talk about focusing on aspects of future climate that we’re certain about, and we can learn things about just focusing on those aspects of climate that we’re certain about such as temperature.
Emily Lewis 27:27
And that’s the information you provide to managers to kind of help them in their decision making?
Seth Arens 27:32
Yes, I provide the information about changes in precipitation as well. However, when I speak about future climate projections, I like to focus on those things that are we’re most certain about.
Emily Lewis 27:49
Yeah, that’s a good way to go focus on what’s certain in the time of uncertainty. I feel like every day, we have a new challenge that we have to address in terms of kind of like, what our decision making is gonna be. So that was great. That’s exactly what I wanted to kind of get to in terms of having a discussion about what is the science behind some of the projections we’re making and what is the science behind how we come to climate projection. Can you talk a little bit about kind of like the second part of the Western Water Assessments regarding kind of your stakeholders? How do you identify your stakeholders? How does that partnership originally initiate? How do you come in contact with like a Moab city or Weber basin? Or, you know, can you kind of unpack a little bit like the stakeholder side of the organization’s mission?
Seth Arens 28:37
Certainly, many times those stakeholder interactions come about very organically. I mean, I can speak so my, my position was held in Utah for by one other person for I think about four years beginning and maybe 2011. So Western Water Assessment has been around since early 2000s. So we’ve been around for quite a while. And especially earlier in our organization’s existence, we’re extremely focused on just water resources, and climate information related to water resources. And while that’s still a major focus, we work a bit more broadly than that, these days, so some of our interactions with stakeholders, you know, have historically stemmed from that focus on working with water managers. So I know when I first started this position in 2015, kind of my first task with the position was just to reach out to you know, the probably 100 or so stakeholders that had already in some way worked with Western Water Assessment in the previous four years. And a lot of those were from water management organizations. Some of those are from different levels of state government working for the various resource management agencies or different federal agencies. And myself as part of kind of a regular part of my position, I just routinely, or periodically will reach out to stakeholders that I haven’t worked with over a period of time just to check in with them, and to see sort of how they’re using climate information in their work, what kind of information they might need that they don’t have. And often these discussions, they may lead to a project, they may lead to me connecting this organization with another organization, or providing them with information that already exists to help answer their questions. And then I would say, sometimes, some of these stakeholder interactions happen organically. I’ve worked with the state division of water resources on the topic of drought. And because the state was interested in drought planning, and drought management, that led to other stakeholder interaction. So it’s really kind of an organic process. And some of these projects come up, sort of randomly. For example, I worked on a project with water managers in Moab to provide a workshop to help them to start thinking about water supply, groundwater supply and climate change. And that came about because I gave a presentation to a group of folks from the USDA, and one of the people at the meeting happened to hear me talk about some projects and said, Hey, I think the City of Moab is interested in something like that. So, the stakeholder interactions happen in various ways.
Emily Lewis 31:42
Do you see any trends though, like in terms of like small towns are more interested or larger towns are more interested because they have the resources or, you know, water certain districts, you know, are able to jump on these projects more because they’re tax funded? Or, you know, you’re sitting in a unique position, where you get to really talk to a lot of people who are interested in this topic and I always find it interesting, what is it that changes a conversation from being interest to being action? Do you see any trends about who’s able to take advantage of your information or who’s willing or are all of them just really so dependent on kind of the local conditions?
Seth Arens 32:18
It is dependent on local conditions. One of the advantages that Western Water Assessment has is that we have funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to do stakeholder engaged applied science. And part of that is paying for the time it takes to develop those stakeholder relationships, which in sort of the traditional mold of how science is done, at universities, that academic process of applying for research, funding, getting that funding and completing a project, it doesn’t typically start from the point of a particular end users need, it takes time to understand what that end users need, might be. So we have the luxury because of our funding to be able to do that. And we also have the luxury to take on projects that we already consider that were funded for that. So if it’s a small community that we’re working with, that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of extra resources to pay for getting climate information to inform their long term planning. We don’t necessarily need to seek funding from that city. We do seek funding from organizations in certain situations, but we have the flexibility that we don’t, we don’t have to get funding for every project we work on because of the funding structure we have from NOAA.
Emily Lewis 33:55
It’s kind of already part of it – it’s baked into what you do.
Seth Arens 33:58
It is baked into what we do. And I would say you ask the question – to answer more directly your question about how does this interest move towards action. And oftentimes that has to do with current events. So our organization has, over the last couple years, had a series of projects that has, we call them VCAPS projects. It’s an acronym that stands for vulnerability consequences and adaptation planning scenarios. And it’s essentially a facilitation technique to work with communities to explore climate risk, and then how to respond to and adapt to those climate risks. And in the course of working on these VCAPS projects, Western Water Assessment has worked with, I think, six different small communities in Colorado and Utah over the last three years, and many of those projects moved from that interest to action because of current events, current climate events, you know, we did a lot of those projects in 2018, when there was pretty severe drought in much of western Colorado and eastern Utah, and also a project in 2019, in Moab, and all of those projects, to some degree, were informed by that 2018 drought. That was an event that I think led to having some of these towns move from interest to action.
Yeah. And that was a very dry year. I mean, it was a lot of red on that map.
A bunch of southwest Colorado and southeastern Utah was, if not the driest year on record by many metrics, it was close.
Emily Lewis 35:47
Yeah, completely. So does Western Water Assessment actually do the VCAPS analysis? Or is that something that you do with a collaborator?
Seth Arens 35:57
Well, so we work with, we usually in each of those projects, we have what we call a community champion. So there’s one particular person within one of the organizations involved in what will be that workshop, that’s kind of our main point of contact, and that person helps us understand sort of the situation that exists there. So if they’re really concerned about drought, you know, sort of what’s the lay of the land in terms of how they get water, how stakeholders interact. And then we conduct interviews of all the participants before the meeting, to understand the specific situation and their specific interests and needs in terms of climate information. Then we develop a kind of a climate presentation about historical and future climate projections, that starts this conversation about climate risk, and how to adapt to those climate risks.
Emily Lewis 36:55
And so do you identify for them climate risks? That’s kind of my next question, what do you see as climate risk? Are those identified per community? Or do you kind of come with like a pre understanding of kind of what the climate risks are and then they determine whether or not those are applicable to that community?
Seth Arens 37:11
Those those climate risks come from the community.
Emily Lewis 37:15
They come from the community, what would be like a specific climate risk that the community would see, you know, what are they assessing when they’re assessing their risk? Like how risky they are? What are the things that they’re looking at?
Seth Arens 37:26
So a lot of these projects have been, drought has been a major focus. So drought, and then its impact on water supply. So that’s the climate risk that was at the core of most of these workshops. And again, like I mentioned, the 2018 drought was an event that in many of these communities, caused greater realization that there was a risk to their water supply due to drought.
Emily Lewis 37:56
And I guess my question is more like, what is that risk? Are people looking at like, Oh, this is gonna hurt us from our agricultural sector, this is going to hurt our ability to grow as a community, this is going to hurt us from an economic perspective? Or is that just kind of, like implicit when they when they look at their drought analysis?
Seth Arens 38:10
I mean, if it varies from community to community, a community like Moab, water availability and expansion, you know, development within the town and tourism are very much linked. Agriculture is less of an impact in a community like Moab, whereas Cortez Colorado, agriculture is a much bigger part of the picture when you’re thinking about water supply. So those specific impacts vary from community to community.
Emily Lewis 38:41
And the VCAPS kind of helps them figure out what it is for their community?
Seth Arens 38:46
Yes, however, the VCAPS, really the workshops focus more on on most of these communities have some understanding of what the risk is because they felt some of these risks. Western Water Assessment provides information about what those future risks might look like how those risks change. So that’s providing some new information. But then a lot of the workshops are then “Okay, here are the risks that, you know, here are some that are maybe new to the community or what it looks like in the future. Now, how’s that going to affect how you use water, for example, community? And then how can you adapt to those changes? So that’s really what the focus is more on facilitating a discussion about impacts of that climate risk and adaptation strategies.
Emily Lewis 39:40
So kind of giving a forum for the local community to really kind of dive in and pick apart kind of what what’s going on and what can we do about it, really?
Seth Arens 39:49
Emily Lewis 39:51
So, you know, I think that sounds like a great process. So from the projects you’ve worked on, what’s been your personal favorite one or one that you think has been really impactful? The one you’ve seen some creative end results from.
Seth Arens 40:04
Two projects come to mind. One, a project that I mentioned earlier in this conversation – working with scientists at the University of Utah and Utah State University to develop A climate vulnerability assessment for Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. I think that that here in the state of Utah I think that we’re at nearing a turning point in considering climate change in planning and I think that for an organization like Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, this was just a hugely impactful step forward and very forward thinking in looking at climate change and starting to think about how this is going to impact their ability to do their job to provide water to their community on multi-decade timescales into the future.
Emily Lewis 40:58
There is so much that can happen in those multi-decades, I mean, just looking back at the growth of the state 30 years ago, compared to what is projected 30 years moving forward. Growth alone presents so many obstacles and then you throw in changing water use patterns, climate, I mean I feel for water managers. They have a lot on their plate they have to address
Seth Arens 41:19
Right, right. Another project that was actuallya relatively small project, but I think it was very impactful was – I worked with the Utah Division of Emergency Management in early 2019 to provide them with some information about climate change and their work to revise the Utah Hazard Mitigation plan. There are not very many official state of Utah documents that include information about climate change and that is one of those documents. And I think that I am starting to see this change within many different places within the state or types of organizations that are really starting to consider climate change in planning. Especially when we consider the rate that Utah is growing in terms of population, I think it is hugely important ot consider climate change in many different levels of planning for the future. To me it is very encouraging to see other organizations considering climate change wanting to continue to consider climate change, and beginning to do something about climate change in terms of planning and adaptation.
Emily Lewis 42:35
Yeah, I completely agree with you I think that it is – I say this frequently in this podcast but, Utah loves ot plan and we have to live in the reality we live in now and the reality is that climate change is hereso planning for it is already built into what we do as a state and what we do well, it’s just kind of tweaking the dial to think a little differently abotu what planning means. I find this conversation really encouraging because we all want to have a thriving future and the way to do that is to take this seriously and start thinking about how we adapt our systems now ot meet these future conditions.
Seth Arens 43:13
Emily Lewis 43:15
Yeah. Great! Well Seth this has been awesome. I really appreciate your time. I thought this was really helpful to kind of break down how climate models work and what goes into them and then I really enjoy learning about how you guys work with stakeholders and how the process is formed to meet their specific needs. Again and again, the concept of local should drive keeps coming up again and again and I think it’s the best to have those who are most intimately effected and involved be the ones who are sitting in the drivers seat of decision making. i think it’s cool that you guys have created a process that really allows local communities to take the best science and move forward from there. Is there anything else you have or any thoughts to add that we didn’t get to address?
Seth Arens 44:02
I don’t think so, I do just want to say I appreciate you having me on your podcast, it was a very good conversation to have and I appreciate you inviting me.
Emily Lewis 44:10
Yeah, definitely! Awesome. Well, thank you again and I am sure I will reach out again because I love having repeats.
Seth Arens 44:20
Sounds good, I look forward to it Emily.
Emily Lewis 44:22
Brian Lebrecht 44:38
Nothing said in this podcast should be taken as providing legal advice or as establishing an attorney client relationship with you or anyone else.
MacKenzie Nickles, Podcast Producer 44:45
This podcast was produced by MacKenzie Nickles. Find Ripple Effect on Itunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening.