DWR Releases Drought Planning Report


Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources, addresses the County Drought Advisory Group in Sacramento, California on October 1, 2019.

Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources, addresses the County Drought Advisory Group in Sacramento, California on October 1, 2019. DWR/2019

The Department of Water Resources has released a draft report with recommendations and guidance to help small water suppliers and rural communities plan for the next drought, wildfire, or other natural disaster that may cause water shortages.


The report, developed through a year-long stakeholder process and published on April 14, could inform future legislation to help small water suppliers and rural communities reduce their risk of inadequate water supply amid a water shortage event.


During the five-year drought that extended from 2012 through 2017 some households in rural communities saw their wells go dry and were forced to rely on bottled water or water delivered to home storage tanks. Given common technical, financial and other organizational constraints, small water suppliers also experienced greater economic challenges than their larger counterparts.


Here is a snapshot of recommendations in the draft report:

  • Planning: Small water suppliers serving more than 1,000 customers would create an abridged version of a water shortage contingency plan. This plan would be a less stringent version of the water contingency plan that urban water suppliers are required to submit as part of their Urban Water Management Plans every five years. The draft report also calls for county governments or regional entities to perform water shortage planning.
  • Preparedness: Small water systems should compile a list of resources needed to assist them in a drought or water shortage emergency. The list could include local community-based organizations that work with vulnerable populations, contractors for drilling wells, certified water haulers, and emergency shower vendors. DWR recommends that counties and regional entities undergo contingency planning to cover all their rural communities.

In addition to the report, a new online tool enables small and rural water suppliers to explore their relative risk of water shortage. The tool represents California’s first effort to systematically and holistically describe the risk of water shortage across small water suppliers and rural communities statewide. This information will also be useful for groundwater sustainability agencies as they develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.


A small water system is defined as serving 15 to 2,999 customers. The analysis of rural communities seeks to assess water shortage risk for households on domestic wells and those customers served by “state smalls,” or water suppliers serving fewer than 15 customers.


The recommendations contained in the report were developed in coordination with multiple state agencies and vetted through an extensive stakeholder process with input from the County Drought Advisory Group, which included nearly three dozen experts in this field.


The report, entitled Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities at Risk of Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability and Recommendations and Guidance to Address the Planning Needs of these Communities, satisfies mandates on DWR required under Assembly Bill 1668 (Friedman).