Light on Water
One warm spring day in 1990, a Stanford University civil engineering professor lectured about impending water shortages and about how pumping water is the single largest use of electricity in California. Robin Bayer, then a Stanford undergraduate and now Magic's president, glanced out the classroom window and saw sprinklers throwing their streams through fifty feet of hot, dry air. At that moment she resolved to bring the lessons of her classroom to the operations of the university, and Light on Water was born.
Since that time, we've expanded the purposes of Light on Water. Our aims now are to:
- illuminate the importance of water to human life and the ecological constraints upon human use of water, and
- provide research, consulting, and advocacy to promote ecologically sound water resource stewardship.
Magic's accomplishments to date include:
- 1990-present: draw plans for, install, and maintain native trees and understory species around natural and artificial surface water features including several "vernal pools" created to accept storm water run-off and obviate expensive increases to Stanford University storm drain capacity, and others created to provide habitat for a locally rare tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense)
- 1992-94: prepare an ecologically-based water management plan for Stanford University
- 1993-96: lead successful opposition to a City of Palo Alto proposal to build a multi-million dollar pumping facility and pipeline for distributing wastewater contaminated with salt and heavy metals to Palo Alto and Stanford University for irrigation
- 1996-99: conduct a study of riparian forest regeneration for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and publish our results as "Floodplain Formation and Cottonwood Colonization Patterns on the Willamette River, Oregon, USA" (Environmental Management, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 87-104).
- 1998: research river-floodplain system response to climate change and publish "How the 100-year Flood Became an Annual Event," (Palo Alto Weekly, April 8, 1998) to alert Palo Altans that proposed flood control measures were insufficient to prevent recurrent substantial losses similar to those of 1998
- 2000-present: (in partnership with Ecohydrology West of Santa Cruz, CA) conduct a campaign to improve river-floodplain stewardship throughout the U.S. To date we have:
- assembled the first state-by-state description of statutes and common law pertaining to public ownership of streambeds and floodplain in each of the fifty states,
- performed the first quantitative assessment of rates of island-derived floodplain formation on public streambeds,
- shown how public ownership affords a grossly under-exploited opportunity for ecologically sound stewardship of hundreds of thousands of kilometers of streambeds and hundreds of thousands of hectares of floodplain, and
- published Public Ownership of US Streambeds and Floodplains: A Basis for Ecological Stewardship escribing our findings and analyzing them in BioScience, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
We are currently:
- working in partnership with Ecohydrology West and with individuals in state agencies and environmental advocacy groups around the nation to inventory publicly-owned streambeds and floodplain, and assert public ownership prerogatives to protect and enhance ecological integrity and its myriad benefits;
- collaborating with personnel from the Stanford University Planning Office and from Stanford University Facilities Operations to extend and maintain native species habitat and populations around existing and new surface water features so that stormwater resources are more effectively stewarded;
- developing strategies for Palo Alto storm water management that will reduce costs of proposed storm drain repair and modification, increase utilization of storm water resource, and improve public safety.
If you or someone you know may want to support or participate in Light on Water, we will appreciate hearing from you.