State Finalizes California Water Action Plan

State officials on Monday unveiled final revisions to the California Water Action Plan.

The five-year agenda spells out a suite of actions in California to improve the reliability and resiliency of water resources and to restore habitat and species — all amid the uncertainty of drought and climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration unveiled a draft of the plan in October and then incorporated input from ACWA and other public commenters.

“As we work on emergency actions to manage through one of the driest winters on record, we are also taking proactive, long-term steps to prepare California for future droughts and flood,” said Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “Each decade brings improvements, but also significantly highlights what we can do better. The California Water Action Plan gives us clear focus and vision for the next five years.”

The final plan includes an expanded focus on the current drought and climate change; new language on the water-energy nexus, including leveraging cap-and-trade auction revenue; more references to the benefits of water use efficiency and conservation; a new section on managing headwaters for multiple benefits, which ACWA asked for in its Nov. 21 comment letter; a new section on Lake Tahoe restoration efforts; and additional detail in the groundwater section, including support for the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) program and increased groundwater recharge.

The Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protetcion Agency and the California Department of Food & Agriculture worked together to develop the plan, which is organized under 10 major actions:

1. Make conservation a California way of life;

2. Increase regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government;

3. Achieve the co-equal goals for the Delta;

4. Protect and restore important ecosystems;

5. Manage and prepare for dry periods;

6. Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management;

7. Provide safe water for all communities;

8. Increase flood protection;

9. Increase operational and regulatory efficiency;

10. Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.

According to the Brown administration, the governor’s 2014-’15 budget proposal supports the California Water Action Plan’s near-term action items, with Brown’s budget recommending nearly $619 million for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control, and integrated water management, as well as $472 million in Proposition 84 funds to the Department of Water Resources for integrated regional water management.

ACWA has provided key leadership toward the development of a comprehensive water action plan. On Sept. 27 ACWA’s Board of Directors adopted its Statewide Water Action Plan (SWAP), which identifies 15 critical actions to improve water supply reliability, protect water rights, protect the integrity of the state's water system and promote better stewardship. The California Water Action Plan shares some similar principles with SWAP. Eighty-six ACWA member agencies from across California have adopted support resolutions or sent letters of support for SWAP.

Read the California Water Action Plan at the California Natural Resources Agency website here.