Atkinson Western Water Intern (Ecosystems)

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
San Francisco, CA, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
NGO/Civil Society
Experience Level: 
Not Specified


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EDF offers internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates in a variety of programs and departments throughout the organization. The ultimate goal of our internship and fellowship program is to provide high-quality experiences (including relevant projects and opportunities for networking) that form the foundation for any individual who is serious about pursuing an environmental career.

Ecosystems Overview

Current policies and market failures encourage waste and fail to reward environmental innovation. EDF is uniquely equipped to help fix this problem by accelerating the development of systems that make conservation and efficient land and water management profitable.

One of the priorities of EDF’s water program is advancing groundwater management that proactively meets ecosystem needs and contributes to the resilience of water supplies. Water markets are promoted as a mechanism to enhance resilience and reallocate water to higher-valued users by allowing buyers and sellers to trade water rights. While markets provide flexibility and allow users to adapt to changing water availability, many aspects of water markets remain poorly understood. For example, water markets can alter the spatial distribution, timing, and magnitude of water usage in ways that can provide environmental improvements but also in ways that may cause adverse, unintended environmental and community impacts. One salient potential environmental impact is a change in the quantity and quality of return flows to rivers and streams (e.g., by transferring water use between users with varying pollutant loading). This work seeks to (i) understand the potential environmental impacts of water trading programs and (ii) determine key characteristics of trading programs which contribute to various environmental and community outcomes.

Overall Function

This position provides a unique opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team of experts seeking to better understand environmental, economic, and regulatory considerations related to water markets. The intern will help develop and publish a series of case studies focused on environmental impacts of water markets. Additional tasks may include data analysis for existing water transfers under varying environmental conditions. While this work will primarily be conducted in the context of Californian groundwater basins, we will study global examples of water markets to better understand implications for sustainable groundwater management in California, where new groundwater approaches are urgently needed.

Key Responsibilities

Tasks will include but are not limited to:

  • Research new and developing water markets in the United States (including CA, AZ, TX, NE, CO), Chile, and Australia
  • Develop case studies of water markets in Californian groundwater basins and in other goegraphies
  • Conduct interviews and engage with various stakeholders and water managers
  • Synthesize and analyze data on water trades in Chilean and Californian markets
  • Participate in team meetings, present research findings, and solicit feedback from water program staff, consultants, and partners


  • Graduate student preferred but not required
  • Coursework related to natural resource management/policy, water law/policy, sustainability, economics, groundwater hydrology is preferred
  • Demonstrated interest in public policy, particularly related to water management and use of market-based solutions to address environmental problems
  • Ability to engage and work with diverse stakeholders
  • Experience conducting interviews and developing written reports
  • Highly proficient in MS Word and Excel
  • Experience with ArcGIS is an asset
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Must be well organized, motivated, and detail-oriented
  • Ability to multi-task, prioritize, and meet deadlines
  • Ability to work in a team setting and as well as independently
  • Demonstrate initiative and problem solving skills

Location San Francisco, CA

Term 10 weeks during Summer 2019

Hours Full-time 35 hours per week


To be considered please apply by submitting your resume, cover letter, and a writing sample.


This is a paid internship funded through the Cornell Atkinson Internship program.