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Introduction


The idea of taking a teamwork approach to water resources management that would be regional and all-inclusive was California water’s “aha moment.”


Under a new game plan, everyone was invited to be on the team and all points-of-view were welcomed. It would be a level playing fi eld with myriad participants – water supply, wastewater, stormwater and flood manage- ment agencies (public and private), cities and counties, irrigation districts, resource conservation districts, public utilities districts, agricultural, environmental, fi sh, wildlife and watershed groups, Native American tribal commu- nities, disadvantaged communities, business interests, non-profi ts, the general public, academia and others.


Although the big picture of water resources in California may resemble more a fragmented puzzle than a carefully interwoven mosaic, regional water planning and management are becoming the essential pieces to solving the state’s water issues. To better manage their water supplies, some areas in the late 20th century began to develop regional water management programs.


Passage of the Integrated Regional Water Manage- ment (IRWM) Planning Act of 2002 (Senate Bill 1672 by then-Sen. Jim Costa, Chapter 767, Statutes of 2002) accelerated this effort. The law authorized local public agencies to form Regional Water Management Groups, also called RWMGs, and create regional plans to address “qualifi ed programs or projects.” State agencies would act as partners and develop principles for advancing such regional plans, including criteria for distributing water bond funds.


This collaborative effort manages all aspects of water resources in a region. It is a consensus-based, cross- jurisdictional watershed approach that can help purveyors, planners, landowners, stakeholders and others develop plans to better manage their water resources. Plans also strive to include components of land use planning, environmental protection/restoration and groundwater management.


In 2013 the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recognized 48 IRWM planning areas, whose participants were working together to more effi ciently manage their water resources. Plans spanned 87 percent of California’s geographic area and 99 percent of its population.


In California, water resources issues are as vast and disparate as the state’s geography. Depending on the location, those issues may include limited water supply and increasing demand, natural and manmade contaminants, declining groundwater levels, environ- mental restoration and fl ood vulnerability. Facing the


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entire state is the uncertainty of impacts of climate change, ranging from a shrinking Sierra Nevada snowpack to anticipated rising sea levels.


Since the act’s passage, IRWM has evolved into a major component of the California Water Plan (also known as Bulletin 160), which is updated by DWR every fi ve years to serve as a roadmap of the state’s water future.


An excerpt from the 2005 Water Plan, the fi rst update published following passage of the act, stated, “Integrated regional water management is the future for California because it will help regions diversify their water portfolio strategies and get the most from local, state and federal resources and funding.”


In the fi ve-volume 2009 Water Plan, which was described as the “state’s blueprint for sustainability and integrated water management,” a set of 13 objectives led by the expansion of IRWM was included. With plans in place, DWR said, “regions have been able to take advantage of opportunities that are not always available to individual water suppliers: reduce dependence on imported water and make better use of local supplies; enhance use of groundwater with greater ability to limit groundwater


Click to read about DWR’s IRWM strategy


Although the big picture of water resources in California may resemble more a fragmented puzzle than a carefully interwoven mosaic, regional water planning and management are becoming the essential pieces to solving the state’s water issues.


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