Posted: September 22, 2022

Check out our conversation with Lara Fowler about her approach to engaging communities in water dispute resolution, drawing on examples from her work on the West Coast and in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Session Description

During this talk, Lara discusses projects she's worked on, including who is entitled to store groundwater in the greater Los Angeles area and how combining both flood impact resilience and habitat restoration has helped community members in a Washington State river basin move forward. Looking closer to home, she also discusses work on water and agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay region and flood resilience for Pennsylvania communities. Finally, she shares some ideas about what sustainability might mean for Penn State, Pennsylvania, and beyond.


Storyteller Bio

Lara Fowler is a mediator, attorney, and law faculty member who focuses on water, energy, agriculture, and dispute resolution. On July 1, 2022, she became the interim Chief Sustainability Officer for Penn State, as well as the interim Director of the Penn State Sustainability Institute.

Lara has a long background in environmental issues, particularly water and dispute resolution. Prior to joining Penn State in 2012, she worked on public policy issues for the Oregon Water Resources Department, attended the University of Washington School of Law, and practiced with Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP from its Seattle, Washington office. As a private practitioner, she worked on a number of projects that brought stakeholders, science, and the law together with a focus on finding workable solutions. For example, she helped facilitate discussions on how to address chronic flooding issues in Washington State’s second largest river basin, mediated challenging water issues in California and Oregon, and counseled private clients on various regulatory matters, both water and energy related.

She now wears multiple hats: as Penn State’s interim Chief Sustainability Officer, as the interim Director of the Penn State Sustainability Institute, as a Senior Lecturer at Penn State Law, and as an affiliate faculty member of Penn State’s School of International Affairs. Prior to taking the sustainability leads in July 2022, she was the Assistant Director for Outreach and Engagement with Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment. Lara teaches water law; energy law; negotiation and dispute resolution design; and mediation of environmental and public conflicts.

Her research focuses on how water, energy, and ways of managing conflict play out in a region that includes the Chesapeake Bay, agriculture, flood-prone rivers, biofuels and other types of energy development. Lara is on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee, is a juror for the Stockholm International Water Institute’s Junior Water Prize, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Sweden from 2019-2020.

About the Series

Stories from the Field is a conversation series on community engagement and applied research. The series is designed to bring academics and practitioners together for informal discussions about the challenges and opportunities of doing work with communities, businesses, and the public sector. Stories from the Field is hosted by Penn State's Center for Economic and Community Development, an applied research center dedicated to strengthening local and regional development in Pennsylvania and beyond.