As we have discussed in previous editions in this series, there is broad agreement that the state’s water management system is unable to meet both ecological and human needs. Long-term solutions will likely be complex and costly to implement. They will require a combination of local, regional and state efforts to put California’s water resources on a sustainable path. Truly sustainable solutions will also need to strike a balance to provide clean, reliable, sufficient and affordable water supplies, protect the environment and support a growing, healthy California economy. This balance must include higher regard for the human social and economic consequences of regulatory decisions made in the name of improving the environment than we have seen in the last two decades.

As the next Governor develops his water policy strategy he has a good starting point. The Brown administration created the California Water Action Plan as a roadmap to put California on a path toward sustainable water management.

The Water Action Plan was developed to meet three broad objectives:

  • More reliable water supplies
  • Restoration of endangered species and habitats
  • A more resilient water resources system that can better withstand the growing pressures of climate change and unpredictable changes in water supply

To meet these objectives, the Water Action Plan outlines 10 key water policy actions. One key aspect of the plan is close coordination of state, regional and local government actions. Local agencies have increasingly been pursuing a strategy of making regions more self-reliant by developing new sources of local water supplies. That clearly needs to continue, with increased coordination from state agencies. Other actions, including making conservation a way of life and improving groundwater management, are being addressed at the state level but these efforts need to focus more on truly adding value to the needs of the environment and the water consuming public.

The next Governor will need to focus his attention on some remaining big issues if California is going to ensure enough water for all future needs. We will be discussing a number of these priorities in coming weeks including:

  • Expanding water storage capacity
  • Achieving the co-equal goals for the Delta
  • Increasing operational and regulatory efficiency

Water has shaped California’s past and present, and will help define its future. Simplistic and unbalanced environmental regulations have increasingly led to human water shortages. The next Governor must be focused on California’s water future and ensure the collaboration between local, regional and state efforts continues. The state’s role is to lead, remove road blocks and help finance these actions. Governor Brown has done a good job laying out a sensible course, in broad terms, for the future of water management. Our next Governor must take it to the next level and implement that vision with his own brand of leadership.