DWR’s Strategic Plan for the Future, which it calls “critical for ensuring the continued advancement of sustainable water resources management,” marks a good starting point to bringing IRWM into the 21st century. When published in 2013, the strategic plan is intended to serve as a long-term, future-oriented action plan.
What exists in many areas of California is a solid start on regional coordination of programs to ensure water supply reliability, improved water quality, improved services to DACs, coordination with land use planners, and protection of ecosystems and endangered species that refl ect a healthy and sustainable water system.
Keeping the regional momentum going forward will require the dedication of participants as well as innova- tive thinking to identify where IRWM can take advantage of shared regional needs. Leadership should be given the green light for “outside-the-box” thinking on win-win solutions to watershed management, natural resources, land-use planning, water supply, water quality, fl ood and fl oodplain management and stormwater management.
There are a number of processes that have been implemented by the state in the last several years (including the State Water Board’s process for identify- ing Delta fl ow criteria and Central Valley fl ood planning efforts) for which it would be benefi cial to stakeholders to speak as a region. IRWM facilitates this process and will likely be the vehicle for some of these regional conversations.
Regional investment will be more and more essential as California adapts to changes in weather patterns that directly impact water infrastructure. Many of the impacts of an evolving weather pattern directly impact water systems from the shifts in the timing of snowmelt in the Sierra to inundation of water infra- structure and saline encroachment in aquifers due to rising sea levels. IRWMs are well positioned to be the lead entities addressing these global changes and their impacts on California.
Future plans could incorporate many other issues. Already some regions are integrating transportation and communications infrastructure into their planning processes. Broader issues that address statewide energy goals, provide resiliency, create local economic activity or serve other identifi ed local needs may be added to efforts.
It is imperative that the general public be kept involved with various community venues available to express local concerns and provide input into planning process and project priorities. As an example, the North Coast IRWM Plan has a website, conference and numerous workshops throughout the region to keep the process open.
Special attention must be paid to welcoming the next generations – the Gen-Xers and Millennials – to join the conversation whether it’s through social media or digital newsletters, at special events catered to specifi c age groups or during school education programs.
To assist with future regional efforts, the federal government has offered up a “Federal Support Toolbox for IWRM,” including the integration of water science, observation, prediction and management informa- tion and services. To unify their commitment to an integrated approach, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Geological Survey in 2011 signed the Collaborative Science, Services and Tools to Support Integrated and Adaptive Water Resources Management MOU.
As evidenced in this Layperson’s Guide, IRWM is an evolving process that ultimately improves with increased involvement by a greater number of people as well as regular, ongoing communication and coordination between state and local offi cials about what’s working right and how improvements can be made.
Instead of being on the outside looking in, there is no better time for becoming involved in the IRWM process for the fi rst time or taking existing plans to their next, higher levels.
Watch a video from the Integrated Water Management Summit
Regional investment will be more and more essential as California adapts to changes in weather patterns that directly impact water infrastructure. IRWMs are well positioned to be the lead entities addressing climate change and its impact on California. Future plans could incorporate many other issues, including energy needs.
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