Integrated Regional Water Management Policy Principles

  • Aug 7, 2019
  • Policy Documents

On July 26, 2019, the ACWA Board of Directors adopted new policy principles on Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) in California.

Integrated Regional Water Management is a voluntary, collaborative effort to plan and implement water management solutions on a regional scale. State lawmakers created the IRWM Planning Act in 2002 to encourage local entities to improve water quality and water supply reliability to meet the state’s overall agricultural, domestic, industrial and environmental water needs. IRWM is an efficient model for water management planning. IRWM delivers higher value for investments by utilizing early and collaborative stakeholder processes and prioritizing funding for multi-benefit projects that help diversify a region’s water management portfolio. The public water agencies which have engaged in IRWM have significantly invested in this collaborative approach. IRWM provides a path forward to address many of California’s major water challenges.

Following are the Association of California Water Agencies’ IRWM Policy Principles: 

  1. Water resources are best managed by local jurisdictions to effectively and efficiently manage water quality and supplies. ACWA supports IRWM as a tool to assist local water agencies in solving short and long-term water management challenges through an integrated planning approach.
  2. IRWM integrates planning across water management sectors, including water supply, water quality, flood management, stormwater, and habitat restoration to achieve regional goals and objectives. Integrated planning results in multi-benefit projects developed in a time- and cost-efficient manner.
  3. Local and regional scale planning through IRWM is integral to California’s comprehensive water management planning, providing a foundation for the state to achieve its coequal goals of improved water supply reliability and enhanced ecosystem health in an era of climate change.
  4. IRWM is a hub for diverse stakeholder engagement at the regional scale. The collaborative partnerships attained through IRWM result in improved water management planning and project development, reducing potential conflicts, and forming regional leadership.
  5. ACWA supports the continued use of IRWM governance structures, known as Regional Water Management Groups (RWMGs), to build on the well-established, inclusive stakeholder outreach and facilitation efforts through IRWM. RWMG stakeholder processes result in the balance of diverse interests within a region.
  6. RWMGs organize transparent processes that encourage the involvement of and input from underserved and disadvantaged communities (DACs), Tribes, environmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and interested stakeholders into local water resources decision-making, planning and management. ACWA supports the role of RWMGs in working with DACs, Tribes, academia and NGOs.
  7. IRWM is a voluntary program that can help achieve regulatory compliance through project development and implementation. State or federal entities should streamline permit processes or allow flexibility on the development of regulatory requirements for projects supported by IRWM. Such regulatory alignment supports efficient, integrated water resource management.
  8. Projects developed and funded through IRWM result in measurable benefits for local and regional entities. Benefits and regional data for these projects are recommended to be integrated with statewide water resource management efforts for accountability, stewardship and transparency purposes, where applicable.
  9. Streamlined administrative practices are essential for continued success of IRWM. The Department of Water Resources, other state and federal funding agencies, and RWMGs must partner, analyze and improve the efficiency and consistency of current grant administration and plan review practices.
  10. Successful implementation of IRWM throughout California will require continued federal, state, regional, local and private investments. ACWA further supports increased funding for IRWM and encourages funding entities to align funding criteria and cycles to encourage IRWM participation.
  11. ACWA encourages RWMGs to leverage multiple funding sources of different types and purposes, including but not limited to funding from federal, state, local, public, and private sources. The development of diverse funding portfolios at the regional scale strengthens the ability for local entities to continue to develop integrated, multi-benefit solutions.
  12. ACWA will continue to coordinate on IRWM with interested entities and encourages other statewide associations, local and regional entities, interest groups and the state to educate and collaboratively advocate regarding why IRWM enhances water resource planning and project development efforts statewide.