22 May 2009

Do I Need to Be an Economist to Be Useful?

SK asks:
I am a mediator with a non-profit management/ arts/real estate background and a heavy interest in water. I have no legal/policy training yet and only a few water classes at Cal. Mostly I am a water fan attempting to work my way toward water conflict resolution and trans-boundary issues.

So now I am curious if I need an economic degree as well or if you might recommend areas of study/people to talk to. It seems at whatever conference or colloquium I attend, the topics are naturally bias toward the backgrounds of law/policy/science and never the tween shall meet. So it seems I must learn enough of all three to facilitate that dialogue without becoming too bias myself in any one direction. (ie I’d prefer to learn water law outside law school if poss)

I am especially interested in power plant cooling and desal-wondering if just becoming an expert in one area of water might be possible with only minor hydrology?
Please give SK your thoughts on these questions.


  1. Trade information with those who have the knowledge in the arena that you may need.

    Where possible, become a practitioner by actually taking the actual matter to completion. ( Nothing beats owning and protectiing your own water right.)

    Combining a chemistry degree with licenses in engineering, real estate, adult education & insurance along with taking my own cases through Court landed a Referee position for the District Water Judge on the Colorado River, enhancing my appreciation for water law. The economically feasible part came with experience.

    Always willing to help,

    WaterSource/WaterBank waterrdw@yahoo.com

  2. I agree with Water Source. One reason I read this blog is to augment my limited background in water issues. I am an expert is a few fields--biochemistry of DNA, computer science of memory, and coupling data to decisions. Everywhere else, I admit ignorance and ask for help. Sometimes people think that I am knowledgeable. All I did was ask someone smarter than me to help out.

    Hope this is useful.

    By the way, my real interest in water is to understand regulatory successes and failures so that I can use this information in electricity generation.

  3. @SK. The first thing you need to do is assess both your auto-didactic capability and the need for credentials.

    Undoubtedly, if you're good at teaching yourself, you can use the Internet to become an expert in water with no previous background. But not everyone is good at learning this way. You have to honestly assess whether you can. If yes, then you have to put in the effort to build your knowledge.

    But even that may not be sufficient for your purposes. If the people with whom you will be working on water issues expect you to have a relevant credential, the actual knowledge may not be enough. At a minimum, you may need to go and get some sort of certification or publish articles/papers to achieve the necessary credibility.


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