The California Water Plan: Roadmap for Action

DWR’s Kamyar Guivetchi presents the California Water Plan, touching on the importance of integrated water management; the nexus between the California Water Plan and the California Water Action Plan; the three overarching themes of integration, alignment and investment; and the plan’s “Roadmap for Action.”

At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Council members were given an overview on the latest iteration of the California Water Plan, the statewide planning effort for managing California’s water resources that is led by the Department of Water Resources.

The California Water Plan presents the status and trends of the state’s water resources, supplies, and demands for a range of plausible future scenarios, and thus provides a collaborative planning framework for officials, agencies, tribes, resource managers and the interested public to develop findings and recommendations and to make informed decisions for California’s water future. The first California Water Plan was produced in 1957, and it has been updated every five years with the most recent iteration, Update 2013, released at the end of October of last year.

Click here for more from the Delta Stewardship Council.

Kevan Samsam, Supervising Engineer with the Delta Science Program, introduced the agenda item by noting that the California Water Plan is an instrumental document. “It helps elected officials and water managers throughout California make informed decisions,” he said. “Not only does it include a lot of data showing status and trends, but it also provides strategies for moving forward on many of the same interests that the Delta Plan has, and in that regard, it should be no surprise that as we were developing our Delta Plan, the California Water Plan was very instrumental in some of those chapters. Likewise, we tried to also work with the California Water Plan to implement the Council’s goals and visions.”

Mr. Samsam then turned it over to Kamyar Guivetchi to present an overview of the California Water Plan.

Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of Statewide Water Planning

KamyarKamyar Guivetchi began by noting that he has been employed at the Department of Water Resources since 1978; his first job was working in the town at Hood on what was then the fish screen testing facilities for the intakes for the peripheral canal. “Little did I know back then what this all meant, but now I can piece that all together,” he said.

Mr. Guivetchi noted that over the last year and a half, two years, state government has been very active in water in a large part due to the drought, but also because Governor Brown directed a number of agencies to put together a very comprehensive water action plan. “We were fortuitous in being able to cross-pollinate many of these activities so a little over a year ago, when the Governor put out the draft California Water Action Plan, we put out the public review draft of update 2013,” he said. “In preparing both of those, we shared information with various state agencies, and then the way I see the final water plan is, that’s where a lot of the content is for implementing the Water Action Plan.

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_04When I brief folks, I basically say, ‘if you want to know what state government is doing in water for the next five years, read the Water Action Plan,’” he said. “While it’s only 19 pages, because it is a multi-agency administration initiative, it is organizing the work of our agencies as well as our budget requests and our resource allocation. The work of state government is being organized around the Water Action Plan, and the reason that works is because the ten actions of the action plan are very comprehensive.” He noted that although every administration has had some sort of water initiative, this is by far the most comprehensive he has seen during his tenure at DWR.

Mr. Guivetchi noted that the water plan, also called Bulletin 160, has been updated ten times now. “This update of the water plan does have a strong nexus with the Governor’s Water Action Plan,” he said. “One of the things I do like to note for folks is while the water code says that DWR updates the plan, it also goes onto say there are no mandates in the plan and no funding is automatically authorized. The way I think of it is that this is the legislature’s way of saying that the executive branch develops the plan, but you can’t unilaterally implement it. You have to work with the legislature on the resourcing and the funding and the priorities of the plan.”

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_06The California Water Plan in total is over 3500 pages long; it is organized into different volumes based on intended readership, Mr. Guivetchi explained. The first volume is the strategic plan, or the “Roadmap for Action’; there is also a volume of Resource Management Strategies and 12 regional reports, one of which focuses on the Delta. He noted that there are also water portfolios and balances, future scenarios, and a lot of supporting reference and technical information included in the plan.

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_07The California Water Plan contains five key messages, Mr. Guivetchi said. “If you take away nothing more than these five messages, that’s important. They are: the fact that water is essential for California; that our water system is in crisis and very complex to understand and manage; that we have to use a diverse portfolio approach in overcoming these challenges; and that we have to focus on integration, alignment, and investment in coming up with these solutions; and that everyone in California has a role to play.”

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_08Mr. Guivetchi noted the California Water Plan has a strong nexus with the Governor’s California Water Action Plan which this is noted in a foldout in the highlights document on page 3. “It has the ten actions of the action plan in green, and under each one, it has the content in the water plan that can be used to help implement those ten actions, so it’s like a smart index to the water plan through the lens of the Governor’s Water Action Plan.”

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_09When we talk about integrated water management in the water plan, we think of it as achieving three major outcomes: Improving public safety which includes safe drinking water as well as flood protection, fostering environmental stewardship, and supporting a stable economy,” he said. “There are many activities and actions that go under each one of those three.”

Three themes bubbled up as they worked on updating the plan:

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_10

  1. Integrated Water Management: “We have to double down on integrated water management. It’s something that the state has committed to since the early 2000s, it is working, but there’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”
  2. Government Agency Alignment: We’ve heard from folks trying to implement multi-benefit integrated water management projects that it’s very time consuming and very costly, in large part because government is not structured to support it, he said. “The plans, the policies and the regulations that we have developed – the state, federal, and local governments – were not developed with integrated water management in mind. It was a much more siloed approach and so when you’re trying to get folks to do multi—benefit projects, these policies and regulations sometimes collide or pull people in different directions. So a big part of this water plan is offering recommendations for how government, particularly state government, can create the administrative infrastructure to advance integrated water management.”
  3. Invest in innovation and infrastructure.

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_12The call to integrate is a recognition or a realization that our water cycle and our water resources are very interconnected, and yet the way we govern water is very decentralized and fragmented,” he said. “Since 2002-2003, and now with Prop 1 passing, the state has committed almost $2.5 billion to advancing Integrated Regional Water Management. Today we have 48 regional water management groups; they cover 87% of the territory of California, and just over 99% of the population.”

He noted that the 48 groups are at different levels of development, from cutting edge to just starting out. “One of the activities that brings them together is to develop an integrated regional water management plan that makes them eligible to compete for the IRWM grant funds,” he said. “What we’re trying to achieve is to increase regional self reliance through the implementation of these integrated plans.”

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_13So how well is this IRWM working?” He presented a slide showing the ten hydrologic regions with a bar graph for each region; the light part on the top part of the bar is the amount of state funding committed to date; the darker portion underneath is how much the locals have brought to the table. “For every dollar that the state has committed or spent, the locals have brought $4 to $5 of their own to advance this approach, so this is really good evidence it’s working. The pie chart shows those multi-benefits that are being accrued or will be realized from the implementation of those projects.”

Mr. Guivetchi emphasized that a comprehensive integrated flood management approach that considers land and water resources at the watershed scale is important. “As part of integrated water management, we have to manage our flood system, our water supply system, and our water quality management together,” he said. “We have to reduce flood risks in ways that helps recharge our groundwater basins and improves our floodplain ecosystems. In the past, because we worked in silos, even within the DWR, one group’s solution could actually cause a problem for another group, and do this integrated approach will prevent that from happening.”

We also need better coordination of land use planning and water management. “Cities and counties plan for land use and water agencies do the water management, but historically they haven’t communicated well or planned well together,” he said. “There are now a number of those 48 regional water management groups that include cities, counties, and water agencies, plus other interests, so I think we have to continue to push the envelope to get better planning and coordination between land use and water management because there’s clear evidence that good, smart land use planning leads to more efficient and sustainable management.”

Agency alignment is critical, he said. Working with stakeholders and other agencies, they developed principles and a number of actions to align work efforts. “A big part is to come up with policies that are regionally appropriate from a state perspective,” he said. “Aligning our plans, policies, and regulations doesn’t mean coming up with a cookie cutter approach that works the same everywhere, but it does mean that we have to make sure that the state government has the same end game in mind. Then we give regions the flexibility to come with the implementation plan that they would need to achieve those outcomes.”

The water plan has tried to practice what it preaches, Mr. Guivetchi. “We now have a 28 state agency steering committee that’s been instrumental in guiding the 2009 and 2013 update of the water plan, and by virtue of having the agencies on the steering committee, we have brought together their companion plans related to water. When we came up with our first inventory of lists for 2013, there were over 180 plans of some sort that these 28 agencies had related to water. We culled that down to 60 nexus plans that had some direct relevance to the water plan, and then out of those, we identified 37 featured plans. By featured we meant that we pulled recommendations from them to inform the water plan. The Delta Plan is one of those 37 featured plans, and so it is an important component of this update of the water plan.”

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_18It’s important to invest because resiliency requires sustained investment, he said. He presented a graph showing infrastructure investments from 1995 to 2010. He explained that the green line shows shows the amount invested locally in water infrastructure, which in 2010, was about $18 billion per year. The red line, the amount the state has invested, is a little over $2 billion per year, and the federal government just under $1 billion. “So we’re looking at $20-21 billion per year as of 2010, and what we said in the water plan is that if we just continue that level of investment over the next decade, $200 billion would just hold our own,” he said. “We would not resolve many of the crises that we’re now confronted with, so the water plans says that we really need to think more in terms of $500 billion investment over the next decade, decade and a half. Where’s that money is going to come from is going to be a big part of the conversation.”

We need to invest in innovation and infrastructure, he said. “By innovation we mean finding ways to improve governance of water, finding ways to improve planning and public engagement, finding ways to improve agency alignment, as well as improve information technology. How can we do a better job of collecting data, managing data, exchanging data, and using those data in analytical tools.” We need to consider ways to commercialize and make more effective new technologies, he added.

We also need to invest in infrastructure, both the green infrastructure such as improving watersheds, ecosystems and floodplains, as well as human and gray infrastructure at multiple scales, he said. “The state has a responsibility and a role to invest in all of those innovation activities and to cost-share in the infrastructure activities,” he said.

Mr. Guivetchi pointed out that the innovation activities are in the hundreds of millions of dollars while the infrastructure costs are in the hundreds of billions of dollars, yet when push comes to shove, the funding for the innovation activities are the first to go. “What we’re trying to advance in this water plan is that if the state even unilaterally were to invest in those innovation activities, it will provide a windfall to make better infrastructure decisions at the local and regional level,” he said.

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_20Mr. Guivetchi said that given that financing is such an important issue, they added a chapter on water finance planning. “When we embarked on doing the update for 2013, we had this idea that we would end up with a finance plan for the water plan, but we couldn’t get there,” he said. “One of the big reasons we couldn’t get there is that people can’t even talk about finance using the same terms in the same way, so we were getting people talking past each other. So what we did is come up with a 8 step finance planning framework that the stakeholders have bought into or support, and we’ve advanced that in this update of the water plan.”

We’ve also come up with shared values, principles, that the stakeholders feel would help guide those decisions that have to be made,” continued Mr. Guivetchi. “Because we didn’t end up with a finance planning set of strategies, we ended up with attributes, so we know that the conversation has to continue, and we’re saying to those who continue the conversation that they should pay close attention to these particular attributes of finance planning. The other thing in this chapter is a detailed table matrix of all the different financing instruments that have been used or considered in the state of California, and an initial analysis of their strengths and limitations.”

The California Water Plan has ten guiding principles which articulate the core values and philosophies that dictate how to achieve the Plan’s vision, mission, and goals. The first guiding principle is ‘Manage California’s water resources and management systems with ecosystem health and water supply and quality reliability as equal goals, with full consideration of public trust uses.’ Mr. Guivetchi said this is an expansion of the coequal goals guidance of the Delta Plan. “What we’ve done in the water plan is said that this just doesn’t apply to the Delta; this should be an ethic and an approach that applies to all water planning and management in California.”

The California Water Plan has 17 objectives which target what needs to be done to accomplish one or more goals that are closely aligned with the governor’s Water Action Plan. He then highlighted a few:

Objective 7: Manage the Delta as both a critically important hub of the California water system and as California’s most valuable estuary and wetland ecosystem; achieve the two coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place. Mr. Guivetchi noted that this is a concise description of Delta Plan recommendations that were included in the California Water Plan.

Objective 1: Strengthen integrated regional water management planning and implementation to maintain and enhance regional water management partnerships and improve regional self-reliance.

Objective 2: Use and reuse water more efficiently with significantly greater water conservation, recycling, and reuse to help meet future water demands and adapt to climate change. “Water conservation is a big part of the California Water Plan and the Water Action Plan,” he said. “One of our recommendations is to look to a 2030 water conservation goal as we move forward. We right now are operating under the 20×2020, which is a 20% reduction in per capita water use by 2020. What we are suggesting here is that if you take the total water use, if and when we achieve that 20%, and you look at the total water use reduction relative to the year 2000, we’re saying that let’s between 2020 and 2030, keep total urban water use constant, and by doing that, we would basically be going to a 30% reduction of per capita water use relative to the year 2000. So it’s keeping the same trajectory but pushing on to 2030.”

Objective 3: Advance and expand conjunctive management of multiple water supply sources with existing and new surface and groundwater storage to prepare for future droughts, floods, and climate change.A big part of the water plan is promoting conjunctive water management,” he said. “Groundwater with multiple other supply sources, just not stored surface water, but surface runoff, recycled water, stormwater capture. Conjunctive water management can be an effective management tool.” He noted that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is consistent with the water plan’s recommendations for conjunctive groundwater management.

Objective 4: Protect and restore surface water and groundwater quality to safeguard public and environmental health and secure California’s water supplies for beneficial uses. Mr. Guivetchi noted that the water plan’s recommendations are consistent with the Delta Plan’s.

Objective 5: Practice, promote, improve, & expand environmental stewardship to protect biological diversity and sustain natural water & flood management systems in watersheds, on floodplains, & in aquatic habitats. Mr. Guivetchi said that they worked with Fish & Wildlife and others with to come up with the related actions.

Objective 6: Promote & practice flood management that reduces flood risk to people & property and maintains & enhances natural floodplain functions using an Integrated Water Management approach. He noted that both the Flood Future report and the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan are companion plans to the California Water Plan, and recommendations were drawn from them.

Item 8_Presentation_Kamyar Guivetchi_Page_30He then presented a slide with the 30+ Resource Management Strategies contained in the California Water Plan. Resource Management Strategies are techniques, programs, or policies that can help local agencies and governments manage their water and related resources. Implementation recommendations and challenges for each RMS is outlined in a chapter written by subject matter experts and vetted through the public process. “This is the tool box of integrated water management,” he said.

So in summary, Update 2013 of the California Water Plan describes California’s water resources and systems, a path toward sustainable water management and the consequences of inaction; it focuses on matters of great importance and urgency to stakeholders, the public, and State government. It contains an actionable roadmap for California’s water future, and includes practical, well-reasoned, and critical decision support for implementing the Governor’s Water Action Plan. “The idea here is that we need to get the word out; we need to use the content of the water plan to help implement the governor’s Water Action Plan.”

Mr. Guivetchi closed by encouraging everyone to subscribe to the Water Plan E-news.

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