SAWPA Develops Sustainability Assessment

  • by Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority
  • Apr 29, 2021

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) has recently developed the Santa Ana River Watershed Sustainability Assessment (Sustainability Assessment), an innovative approach for tracking progress of implementing the watershed-wide Integrated Regional Water Management plan, One Water One Watershed (OWOW) goals. Tracking progress is a critical requirement for complying with grant requirements, measuring progress, and communicating the success of the OWOW projects.

The OWOW plan is a long-term and project planning document focused on the Santa Ana River Watershed, which drains a 2,840-square-mile area and is home to over 6 million people in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, as well as a small area of eastern Los Angeles County. OWOW, recently updated in 2018 and called the OWOW Plan Update 2018, has six Plan goals to ensure long-term health and prosperity for society and nature.

The Sustainability Assessment for the OWOW Plan contains twelve indicators, two per each goal, that report how well the six Plan goals are being achieved across the watershed. To draft the Assessment, SAWPA staff and a consultant team from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) formed a partnership in order to identify the datasets and create methods to analyze them. SAWPA and the consultant team worked with stakeholders from across the watershed to gather input on the indicators to ensure they best reflected the goals of the OWOW Plan.

The indicators have a four-tier rating system: Negative, Neutral, Positive, and No Data. These ratings represent the evaluation of the watershed’s effectiveness in the pursuit of sustainability, and report scores that are relative to past performance rather than in respect to a desired condition. This innovative approach compiles data from a variety of data sources such as the SAWPA member agencies’ water delivery reports, the U.S. Geological Survey’s satellite imagery and streamflow network, and the U.S. Census Bureau. The results will further help prioritize areas of need in the watershed, which can help inform upcoming OWOW implementation grant application rounds within the watershed. Working with the State who helped fund this effort, SAWPA hopes that this assessment framework might serve as a template that other regions and watersheds can use to track progress towards sustainability.

The Sustainability Assessment is available on SAWPA’s website.