Politics Colloquium: Ruth Langridge


Ruth Langridge’s research focuses on California water law and policy including groundwater governance; access to water; and relationships between land use and water supply sustainability under climate change. She was the lead author on two major reports for the State Water Resources Control Board that examined the scientific, legal and management elements of California’s groundwater basins adjudicated prior to 2015 and all special act districts (now GSA’s under SGMA), a total of 41 groundwater management areas. She was the lead and coordinating author of the Central Coast Regional Report for California’s 4 th Climate Change Assessment, and served as a member of the Department of Water Resources Climate Change Technical Advisory Committee for three years. Current research focuses on groundwater governance, supported by an NSF EAGER grant, and water and land use under climate change supported by two grants from California’s Strategic Growth Council.


The management of common pool resources such as fisheries, forests, grazing lands, and groundwater can lead to the overexploitation of these resources. This presentation focuses on groundwater, a critical and life-sustaining common pool resource for billions of people worldwide. Yet the unsustainable depletion of groundwater is now documented on both regional and global scales, and is particularly acute in California. Understanding how institutional arrangements impact on-the-ground management of groundwater is essential to sustaining the resource. This presentation focuses first on court adjudication in California, long considered a solution to resource exploitation by allocating private rights to groundwater. Second, we draw on Elinor Ostrom and colleague’s theoretical framework for understanding the governance of common pool resources and her concept of polycentricity – the creation of diverse centers of institutional authority for managing the commons that interact within a general system of rules. Expanding on this framework, we compare the different legal and administrative foundations of an adjudicated system and a legislatively created system of groundwater management where both are embedded within a polycentric system. Lastly, we examine how a polycentric system of groundwater governance evolved in Southern California’s San Gabriel River Watershed to identify dynamic factors that shape polycentric system variations. Our objective in all three of these studies is to better understand how institutional arrangements affect resource outcomes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Charles E. Merrill Lounge
Rutherford House , Santa Cruz, California 95064

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Invited Audience

Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students, General Public, Graduate Students


Academic, Research, Sustainability

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