california

About the Water Plan
What is the California Water Plan?

Required by the California Water Code Section 10005(a), the California Water Plan (Water Plan) is the State government’s strategic plan for managing and developing water resources statewide for current and future generations. It provides a collaborative planning framework for elected officials, agencies, tribes, water and resource managers, businesses, academia, stakeholders, and the public to develop findings and recommendations and make informed decisions for California’s water future.

The plan, updated every five years, presents the status and trends of California’s water-dependent natural resources; water supplies; and agricultural, urban, and environmental water demands for a range of plausible future scenarios. The Water Plan also evaluates different combinations of regional and statewide resource management strategies to reduce water demand, increase water supply, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, and enhance environmental and resource stewardship. The evaluations and assessments performed for the plan help identify effective actions and policies for meeting California’s resource management objectives in the near term and for several decades to come.

By statue, the Water Plan cannot mandate actions or authorize spending for specific actions. Each update makes neither project-specific nor site-specific recommendations; therefore, it does not include environmental review and documentation as would be required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Policy-makers and lawmakers must take definitive steps to authorize the specific actions proposed in the Water Plan and appropriate the funding needed for their implementation. This underscores the need to have broad public participation and support for the Water Plan in order to have its objectives and recommendations realized.

Water Plan History

For almost 60 years, the Water Plan has served as the long-term strategic plan for informing and guiding the sound management and development of water resources in the state. With updates every five years, this plan reaffirms the State’s commitment to integrated water management.

The development of the Water Plan dates back to the late 1800’s. The first plan, which covered ideas for water distribution in the state, was put together in 1873 (see Previous Reports). Subsequent reports (plans) were issued as California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) bulletins.

The initial Water Plan (known as Bulletin 3) was released in 1957 under the direction of DWR’s first Director, Harvey Oren Banks. The Water Plan was intended for “control, protection, conservation, distribution, and utilization of all the waters of California, to meet present and future needs for all beneficial uses and purposes in all areas of the state to the maximum feasible extent.” For the most part, Bulletin 3 and subsequent updates were technical documents focused on water supply development. Overtime, the plans were gradually expanded to reflect the growling conflicts over California’s limited water resources.

Since Water Plan Update 1998, the Water Plan has moved from a technical document focused on water supply development to evaluating options for addressing pressing water issues in California.

Water Plan Updates
Update 2018 (in development)

The California Water Plan Update 2018 is currently in development. Update 2018 and subsequent updates will provide a State venue for monitoring, evaluating, recommending actions, and adapting to keep California on a path of sustainability. Please visit the Update 2018 page for more up-to-date information.

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