• Water Resources Analytics & Policy

    LAUREN  STEELY

  • INTERESTS

    Water Economics in the Western US

    • Water market design
    • Urban water conservation
    • Demand management
    • Water pricing and rate structures
    • Water-energy intensity
    • Distributional effects of market systems

    Water Resources Management

    • Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
    • Colorado River basin management
    • Agricultural water efficiency
    • Remote sensing of landscape ET
    • Water trusts for environmental flows
    • Climate change impacts & adaptation
    • Dam removal
    • Pollutant fate and transport in groundwater systems
    • Uncertainty & risk management
  • EDUCATION

    University of California, Santa Barbara

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

    Selected Classes:
    • Economics: Environmental Economics, Resource Economics, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Environmental Markets
    • Water Resources: Fate & Transport of Pollutants, Watershed Quality Management, Water Markets, Water Policy
    • Science: Climate Science & Hydrology, Advanced Climate Science, Biogeochemistry, Ecology of Managed Ecosystems 
    • Data Analysis: Statistics & Data Analysis, Advanced Data Analysis, Econometrics, Informatics
    • Law and Political Science: Environmental Law, Water Law, Policy Analysis, Environmental Politics & Policy, Business & the Environment

    University of Maryland, College Park

    Bachelor of Science, Geology
     

    Selected Classes:
    • Water: Science, Ethics and Law
    • Environmental Geochemistry
    • Groundwater Hydrology
    • Isotope Geochemistry
    • Remote Sensing
  • EXPERIENCE

    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.
    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 Southern California's 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 (or lack thereof).
     

    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 area of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California provides an ideal substrate for such a market due to its 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.

     

    Long Beach Water Department

    Conservation & Planning Intern (2014)

    7% of the water used by municipal residents is lost to leaking indoor and outdoor plumbing, an unacceptable amount during the current California drought. I sought to improve the Long Beach Water Department's automated leak detection protocol, which is triggered whenever a customer receives a bill than is higher than normal.
     

    Using statistical techniques like time series analysis, I analyzed the water department's customer data to identify usage patterns that represent different types of leaks. The goal was to create an algorithm that can spot leaks as they occur and identify when customers repair them.

    Columbia Technologies

    Baltimore
    Field Geochemist (20072010; 20122013)

    • Conducted field investigations of contaminated sites using high-resolution “direct sensing” instruments that map soil and groundwater pollution in real-time: the Membrane Interface Probe, the Ultraviolet Optical Screening Tool, and the Hydraulic Profiling Tool.
    • Worked at more than 50 military, industrial and commercial sites affected by groundwater contaminants, including several Superfund sites, located throughout 17 states, Australia, and Brazil.
    • Operated and repaired the sensor instruments, while also helping the clients’ project managers to interpret the data onsite.
    • Developed data visualizations and data analysis tools for special projects.
    • Trained 4 new employees in the field.
    West Coast Operations Manager (20082010)
    • Business development: Helped the company grow from a regional to a nationwide operation by establishing a base of new consulting clients and service partners in the western U.S.
    • Client management: Developed work plans to match Columbia's technology with its clients’ site investigation goals.
    • Operations: Coordinated the logistics for western U.S. projects, including scheduling, evaluating subcontractor bids and overseeing subcontractor performance.
    • Marketing: Delivered technical presentations to state regulators to increase their understanding of direct sensing technologies.

    Other experience


    Writing Consultant, Bren School Communications Center (2014–15)
    Assisted graduate students with class assignments, grant proposals, manuscripts, cover letters, and presentations. Gave training seminars on policy-relevant scientific writing.
     
    Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (2010)
    Served as field assistant for an ecological research project on iguanas in Panama.
  • STRENGTHS

    Data Science

    Coursework in inferential statistics, nonparametric methods, econometrics, machine learning, and data informatics.
     
    Insightful analysis of large data sets using R and Python

     

    Beautiful data presentation using ggplot2, ggvis, shiny, and plot.ly

     

    Reproducible data querying and munging following the 'tidy data' principles of Hadley Wickham

    Me and the Brazilian team showing off some data

    Brasilidade

    Linguistic and cultural competence
    B2 oral & C1 written proficiency in Brazilian Portuguese (C2 = highest)
     
    Founder of Hacking Portuguese, a website for English speakers learning Portuguese
     
    Participated in a month-long environmental remediation project at a chemical plant in Bahía, working as part of a multinational team from CH2M Hill and DuPont (photo above). This was the first use of soil & groundwater direct sensing technology in Brazil (2012)
     
    Undergraduate coursework on Brazilian cultural studies (2013)
     
    One month in Rio studying choro music performance (2011)
  • TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION

    I follow a specific philosophy of design in much of my work, taking inspiration from many pioneers of technical communication:
     
    Writing
    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)
     
    Presentations
    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)
      
    Reporting
    Elegant, reproducible technical reporting using LaTeX, Rmarkdown and knitr
  • WRITING

    Scientists have a responsibility to communicate their work to the public in a way that is understandable, engaging, and tailored to the needs and values of the audience.

    Where there's fire, there's smoke: The impact of the extraordinary 2007 fire season on Santa Barbara County air quality

    Report + data analysis

     An investigation into the effect of wildfire on particulate matter in the atmosphere. Data analysis and visualization using R and ggplot2.
    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

    "The ongoing removal of two ~100-year-old dams on the Elwha River in Washington state provides an opportunity to study whether the sequestration of marine nitrogen in tree rings can provide a useful historical record of salmon returns. By measuring δ15N, δ18O, and C:N ratios in increment cores from Sitka spruce, we plan to observe the migration of marine-derived nitrogen through the ecosystem in real-time, shedding light on open questions about the utility of tree rings as a tool for studying salmon returns."

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

    A policy memo

    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

    "Imagine a plan to divert water from the Canadian Rockies to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and you’ll have some idea of what Sanusi Imran Abdullahi is proposing. Abdullahi, the Nigerian-born executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, is in charge of saving one of the world’s most endangered water bodies, central Africa’s Lake Chad. Threatened by a perfect storm of climate change, overwithdrawals, and a rapidly growing population that depends on fishing and farming, Lake Chad has shrunk to 1/10th of its size over the last 50 years.

     

    With some scientists predicting the lake will disappear entirely by 2030, Abdullahi is now banking on a dramatic last-ditch effort to rehabilitate the basin: a massive diversion of water from the Congo River watershed, 1000 km away, into the Chari River which feeds the lake. If completedan increasingly unlikely prospect given violence in the Central African Republicthis would be the largest interbasin water transfer in the world."

    Mitigating the impact of climate change on water quality in Lake Tahoe

    A policy memo

    Lake Tahoe is famous for its pristine water clarity, but rising temperatures threaten to increase sediment and benthic phosphorus loads, clouding the water with suspended particles and microorganisms. This memo makes three recommendations for reducing the sediment and nutrient loads to the lake:
    1. Greater stormwater control using detention ponds and bioswales
    2. Voluntary sediment & nutrient reduction programs for ski resorts and golf courses
    3. A more stringent Total Maximum Daily Load for water clarity which takes into account the predicted effects of climate change

    Agricultural Water Conservation in California: Challenges and Opportunities


    The passage of SBx7-7 in 2009 was a milestone for urban water conservation in California, mandating a 20% reduction in urban demand by 2020. But given that agriculture accounts for 80% of consumptive water use in the state, will we see a similar law targetting agricultural conservation? The new groundwater law is a good start, but what are the other economic and policy instruments available to reduce agricultural demand?
    Four electron microprobe images of a garnet, showing the internal concentration of Ca, Fe, Mg and Mn

    The Implications of Porphyroblast Fabric Obliquity on the Timing of Deformation and Metamorphism at Coos Canyon, ME

    Senior Thesis, University of Maryland Department of Geology

    What can the microscopic patterns inside garnets from a western Maine river canyon tell us about the collisions of continents 400 million years ago?

    Creating elegant graphics in R with ggplot2

    A tutorial written for graduate students at the Bren School
  • PRESS

    Encouraging conservation through tradeable allocations and market mechanisms
    The Water Report, June 2015

    A short description of my team's masters project.
    Bren Research Blog
    April 15, 2015

    A group of graduate students connected to the Sustainable Water Markets Program at UCSB presented a panel entitled Water Markets: Challenges and Opportunities.
    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
     

    Idaho Tribune
    March 15, 2008

    The city of Caldwell, Idaho wanted to redevelop its city center into a riverfront park, but decades of industry had left the area contaminated by TCE and other chemicals. Columbia Technologies was selected to perform a 3-week-long MIP investigation to locate chlorinated contaminants in the soil and groundwater. In the field, I worked with the consultant and the drillers to map an area spanning several city blocks.
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