USC Price School of Public Policy

Price students win $5,000 to launch water conservation project

April 22, 2014

from USC Price staff reports

A team of graduate students from the USC Price School of Public Policy reached the final round of the third annual National Invitational Public Policy Challenge in Philadelphia March 22-23, and received a $5,000 runner-up prize to be used toward the implementation of its proposal, LASaves — an online platform to engage customers in water conservation efforts.

The competition, hosted by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania with Governing magazine, challenged students from public policy and administration schools nationwide to develop policy proposals and strategies addressing a critical issue facing their respective communities.

The USC Price team consisted of Master of Public Policy students Yixue Chen, Brandon DeBruhl and Heidi Greenhalgh, Master of Planning student Adrienne Lindgren and Rhett-Alexander Paranay, a dual MPP/MPL student. The group was led by faculty adviser Diane Yoder.

“I’m extremely proud of the effort and innovation our students displayed among such stiff competition,” said Yoder, adjunct assistant professor at USC Price. “Their success demonstrates their desire and ability to translate their Price education into an initiative that addresses a local billing problem in a way that may result in reduced water usage and help meet statewide water conservation goals.”

On the first day of the policy challenge, the students took part in a round-robin competition that included teams from University of Chicago, Columbia, Georgetown and University of Texas at Austin, among others. USC Price represented one of only four schools to advance to the final round the following day. NYU finished first overall for its program proposal focused on raising awareness about breastfeeding.

As a finalist, the USC Price team received a significant award to jump-start LASaves. Given the severe drought affecting California and the Los Angeles area in particular, the USC Price team chose to address this pressing crisis. The students proposed the development of a web application that will enable residents in the San Gabriel Valley to conserve water usage through improved billing, conservation awareness and text- and email-alert systems. The LASaves executive summary, full proposal and presentation are available online.

With its LASaves program, the USC Price team also plans to compete in the Metropolitan Water District’s Spring Green Expo in May.

Yoder added, “I am thrilled that the students are seeking additional funding sources and are working with water district officials to begin to implement LASaves.”