At the October meeting of the California Water Commission, commission members heard an update on the soon-to-be-released update of the California Water Plan, the state’s long-term strategic plan for guiding the management and development of water resources.
The California Water Plan describes current water resource conditions, identifies potential future conditions and the factors driving those changes, recognizes the challenges and impediments to effective solutions, and lays out an extensive list of potential actions that are intended to move California toward more sustainable management of water resources and more resilient water management systems. The plan is updated every five years, with the most recent update in the finalization stages.
Prior to the presentation of the item, Kamyar Guivetchi, manager of DWR’s Statewide Water Planning division, briefly addressed the Commission, calling this ‘a very important transformation period’ for the California Water Plan. “I cannot recall a time in recent past when a governor’s water initiative and the California Water Plan would be mentioned in the same sentence, and I think that speaks to how far we’ve come in the last 13-14 years,” he said, noting that the administrative draft is currently in the Governor’s office, awaiting his approval and would soon be available.
Mr. Guivetchi then informed commission members about an additional piece of legislation recently signed by the Governor that, although it is not directly about water, it could be helpful to entities for financing water and water infrastructure.
“SB 628 by Senators Beale and Wolk was signed by the Governor very late in September,” he said. “It is entitled ‘The Enhanced Infrastructure Finance District’ and this piece of legislation, which is now law, defines what this financing district is. It essentially authorizes local and regional entities to come together and form a financing district, and what’s unique about this tool is that the projects they can do with it can be multi-sector, not just water, it can be multi-benefit, and it can bring together multiple funding sources, so to me, this is a tool that every Integrated Regional Water Management group could take advantage of to get the funding that they would need to do their infrastructure. The legislation gives them the ability to administer fees and what-not to get those sources, so I encourage the commissioners to review this piece of legislation. I personally think it is and could be a very important part of the portfolio of water financing.”
Mr. Guivetchi then turned it over to Paul Massera, Program Manager for the California Water Plan update, to give a brief presentation on the key themes and recommendations of the newly updated plan.
Mr. Massera began by presenting a slide of some basic background information, noting that the water code requires DWR to update the plan every five years. He also emphasized that the water plan has a strong nexus with the Governor’s Water Action Plan. “We did map out over 300 specific actions in Update 2013 to the ten broad governor’s water priorities that are specified in the action plan, so we’re suggesting that Update 2013 is actually a great resource for implementing the governor’s action plan as a tool for guiding investment, and priorities and informing legislative action.”
There were three themes that emerged with strong support across a broad range of stakeholders as part of the update process. Mr. Massera discussed each theme briefly:
Integrated Water Management: “A call to integrate – that’s the first of the three themes. Integrated Water Management. The point here is that the system is interconnected; we’re evolving the description of just how connected the system is.” He then presented a graphic depicting just how the system is interconnected. He also noted that one of the enhancements in the updated plan includes near-coastal water management and bringing in the aspect of the interconnectivity of the coastal areas with freshwater supplies. “Update 2013 provides a very well supported definition of Integrated Water Management, which we heard from our stakeholders really needed to be fleshed out with specific purpose and intent such that it can inform policy. So we developed a broad definition of integrated water management, and then a more focused description of how it relates to the activities and recommendations in Update 2013.”
Government Agency Alignment: “Specifically, for the water plan, we modified principles that had been developed through the Biodiversity Council for improving alignment,” he said. “Obviously the Biodiversity Council’s principles had a little bit more of a conservation bent to it, so we increased the water resources emphasis and modified these principles slightly and will be publishing them in Update 2013.” Mr. Massera said that out of the 300+ actions identified in the water plan, there are 8 to 10 specific recommendations for aligning state government agencies.
Investment in Innovation and Infrastructure: Another enhancement in the update is an expanded finance section. “Finance was something we really hit on for the first time in the water plan update process, and the data we created to support an informed discussion on integrated water management has become quite useful in supporting discussions,” he said, presenting a slide showing the sources and amounts of expenditures on water infrastructure since 1995. “The key takeaway here is that given our estimate for future funding demands across the board for Integrated Water Management, we’re suggesting this is a great downpayment. However, additional funding is certainly necessary and not the least of which a goal would be to create more stable funding than what has occurred in the past.” He noted that the slide also shows the variability of the state’s funding, and the proportionality and role of bonds in the scheme of statewide funding for water management as compared to local funding.
“It is not by happenstance that the California Water Action Plan is quite aligned with what had developed through the water plan,” said Mr. Massera. “The water plan has helped inform the action plan, and I think the result is two very well aligned plans with a drilldown and detail on specific recommendations available in Update 2013, particularly with regard to finance.”
“We had discussions with our broad stakeholders about shared values for guiding state investments, and the role of state government in terms of funding and integrated water management,” he said. “Some of these core discussions needed to be had, rather than jumping right into what should we pay for and who should pay for it, so the outcome of this process provides a great foundation for informing ongoing finance discussions, and these recommendations in Update 2013 pertaining to finance will be brought into our workplan.”
“In terms of the actions for developing state finance strategies, we had a finance caucus and our state agency steering committee and our advisory committees came together and developed specific actions for advancing statewide IRWM financing framework,” he said., noting that an outcome of the process is a menu of available and potential finance alternatives. “We list all of the available strategies, and then provide some context of where they’ve been used, where might they be feasible to be used in the future given the future direction of integrated water management, and then we look at potentially new funding sources as well in a critical or descriptive manner such that it can help inform discussions going forward.”
“I can’t give the water plan presentation without showing the butterfly diagram,” he said, presenting the familiar chart which plots applied water use against water supplies from 2001 to 2010. “The takeaway here is the extensive data that is contained in the water plan, and central to that is the quantification of actual water use and supply. This is the statewide roll up. I would suggest the regional breakout, which I don’t have on a slide today, is even more useful. It shows the diversity by region and where the water is being used and where it’s coming from as a source of supply for those uses.”
Mr. Massera said that Update 2013 looked at a range of future scenarios, with the two primary drivers for water use being irrigated crop area and population. He pointed out the wide range associated with those and said, “We throw around the word uncertainty a lot and I think what this does is really help get our minds around the magnitude of the uncertainty,” he said. “It’s a challenge and a strategic planning objective to reduce that uncertainty.”
The bottom graphic shows the water demand, and he pointed out that ag water demand trend appears to be going down. “This is not projected future, it’s not a desirable future – it is a future absent of any new policies or practices, so that range doesn’t represent preference, it represents just an objective analysis based on the inputs shown above. It’s the same for urban demand. You can see the range is quite significant in terms of where we will be in the future in terms of urban water demand. This type of analysis is very useful and it’s going to be increasingly so for the next water plan update in identifying what strategies actually work under this range of scenarios and what are the most robust solutions.”
He then presented a slide depicting investments by region, as well as the types of projects these investments funded. “One of the key messages of Update 2013 is really that regional conditions, priorities, preferences, and strategies demand regional solutions,” he said. “This is some of the data used to reinforce that and to see where we’ve been, which can inform where we are going or where we may want to be. The point here is that … regional solutions are paramount – critical.”
“So just to wrap up, Update 2013 provides a lot of data and description,” Mr. Massera said. “Perhaps more importantly, it creates a call for action in a very pronounced way. We have a lot of challenges described in very graphic form on where we are headed, particularly if we defer investment and don’t take action for the near future. It provides a path forward to more sustainable water management, and getting right down to the brass tacks with over 300 specific actions recommended.”
Mr. Massera added that they were planning an extensive communications and outreach effort for the roll-out, going beyond what has been done in the past. “There is a lot of good information in the water plan, but it needs to be sharpened for specific audiences geographically and at different scales of government,” he said. “It’s over 3500 pages. To deliver a plan on the doorstep across all institutions and interests in California is not particularly the most useful approach. We’re going to spend some time tailoring messages to make sure that the plan is as useful as we think it can be.”