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Hitting the Road to Study Water

Students on the water trip. Courtesy of Dan Tuttle.

Over spring break, fourteen students from the Graduate School of Business (GSB), along with a faculty advisor and Public Management Program staff member, traveled through California studying the water industry on a GSB Service Learning Trip. Ashish Jhina and Dan Tuttle, 2nd year E-IPER Joint MBA/MS students, organized the trip and facilitated meetings with key decision-makers and stakeholders around the state. Lisa Newman-Wise (Joint MBA-MS 2nd) and Yohei Iwasaki (Joint MBA-MS 3rd) were also on the trip.

We visited a range of companies and organizations involved in every imaginable component of California’s water system: a pumping facility in the Delta, a dairy farm in the Central Valley, a demonstration desalination plant in Orange County, and many in between. Learning about the industry’s challenges from a variety of perspectives was fascinating, including hearing from a non-profit organization concerned about water’s role in biodiversity and ecosystem health, a leading-edge technology company whose goal is to own the membrane filter segment of the market, a small hydroelectric plant in Sequoia National Park, and water customers in a small town whose public drinking water supply is unfit for potable use.

In addition to our two dozen meetings and two service projects (with the community who lacks safe drinking water and with an organization that leads seminars related to managing the sustainability of urban runoff), we had the opportunity to experience myriad components of California culture, including visiting a winery in Napa and a traditional country music hall in Bakersfield and touring the Getty Center in Los Angeles. We all came away with a much better understanding of the critical role water plays in California’s economy, a deeper appreciation for how complicated it is to bring water to our taps every day, and new ideas about how to improve the system.

Submitted by Lisa Newman-Wise