SAN FRANCISCO -- The 13th California Water Law Symposium will be held Jan. 21 at the University of San Francisco (USF).

Hosted by the USF School of Law, this year’s conference is titled “California’s Bay-Delta: Understanding What’s at Stake for the Region’s Future.” This event is an annual collaboration among Bay Area law school students where they discuss and analyze California’s freshwater resources. It is led by water, law and policy experts, said Heather Rogers, the 2017 symposium chair.

“It provides a great opportunity for both students and professionals to engage,” Rogers told the Northern California Record.

The water symposium has an annual rotation among the six law schools that are co-chairs or co-sponsors of the event. They include the University of California Davis School of Law; University of San Francisco School of Law; University of California, Hastings College of the Law; University of California at Berkeley School of Law; Golden Gate University School of Law; and McGeorge School of Law. 

Water Law Symposium founder and attorney Tom Hicks told the Northern California Record that the primary audience is law, graduate and undergraduate students, with a secondary audience of other water professionals and interested members of the public. 

"The Water Law Symposium has steadily grown into an event with local, regional and national impact," Hicks told the Northern California Record.

The 2017 symposium will focus on the current state of the region, litigation and initiatives presently underway, and proposals for the future, said Rogers, who is in her final year at the USF School of Law.

The California Bay-Delta is made up of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta and San Francisco Bay. For years, the area has faced environmental degradation as a result of people’s activities, Rogers said. As a result, some species have dropped to their lowest number on record. Water diversions have led to a decline in water quality and availability across the state, too. Local, state and federal policymakers have been struggling to address the delta’s water issues for years, Rogers said.

“The state has proposed certain plans to combat these problems,” Rogers said. “This year's Water Law Symposium theme seeks to evaluate the feasibility of existing plans and explore potential alternatives.”

Panels during past symposiums have touched upon many of the ongoing challenges the delta faces, said Alice Kawan, USF professor and faculty advisor. This year’s focus on the delta is designed to provide participants with a deeper understanding of these issues.

“Given the multiple and cross-cutting environmental and legal issues the Delta presents, we thought that a Delta-focused symposium would allow us to offer a more comprehensive treatment,” Kawan told the Northern California Record.

The symposium’s panel topics include environmental justice in the delta, delta and the drought, endangered species and the delta, and the delta’s future management. Participating area law schools, including Berkeley Law, Hastings College of the Law and Golden Gate University School of Law, organize the panels of experts, which range from water resource lawyers to environmental coalitions to water policy centers.

The symposium will draw an estimated 300 to 400 audience members, which includes students, attorneys and policymakers. Registration opens in November at waterlawsymposium.com.

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