When it comes to options to increase our available water supplies, urban water use efficiency and recycled water together have the potential to add another 5.4 MAF per year of water supply benefits – which is roughly the same amount delivered by the State Water Project and Central Valley Project on average per year, according to the latest volume of the California Water Plan, released today for public review.
The California Water Plan is the state’s long-term strategic plan for guiding the management and development of water resources. Updated every 5 years, the Plan is being released in phases for public review. Released today is the third volume, which identifies 30 Resource Management Strategies (RMSs) that can be used to help meet the water resource needs of the different regions in the state.
A Resource Management Strategy is a “technique, program or policy that helps local agencies and governments manage their water and related resources.” The strategies are narratives that are written by subject matter experts and include a definition of the strategy, its current use, the potential benefits and costs, implementation issues and recommendations, as well as additional references for more information. Strategies identified in the California Water Plan include actions such as agricultural and urban water use efficiency, conjunctive management and groundwater, desalination, watershed management, forest management, and urban stormwater management.
Adapting to new challenges as well as coping with continuing ones requires local agencies and governments to develop diversified portfolios of water resources and management programs that will achieve sustainable uses and benefits while balancing the risks of an uncertain future. The California Water Plan’s strategies are to be considered tools in a toolkit for water managers to choose from with the understanding that regional and local water managers have the best perspective on which strategy or strategies are most cost-effective and productive for meeting the needs and priorities of their region, taking into account factors such as climate, projected growth, the existing water system, environmental conditions, and regional goals.
Out of the strategies identified as having potential water supply benefits, urban water use efficiency was identified as having the greatest potential water supply benefits of up to 3.1 MAF by the year 2030. Running a close second was recycled water with a potential to add up to 2.3 MAF to supplies by the year 2030.
Many strategies have multiple benefits, such as reducing drought impacts, increasing operation flexibility and efficiency, environmental and energy benefits, reducing groundwater overdraft, and improving food security. Strategies identified as having the most multiple benefits include watershed management, ecosystem restoration, and urban stormwater runoff management. The most expensive of the strategies is desalination which can cost up to $2500 per acre-foot, according to the documents.
The last phase of documents to be released will be the regional reports, scheduled for October 23. A 45 day comment period follows the release of each set of documents. The Reference Guide, Technical Guide, and Highlights will be released with the final plan documents in January. The Plan documents will be discussed at the water plan plenary meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 29 and 30, in Sacramento.