Building Water Resilience

Meeting the water needs of communities, economies, and the environment through regional investments and coordination, with state support.

Water is central to nearly everything we value in California. We must prepare our water systems for a warmer, more variable climate, while addressing long-standing challenges that include a lack of safe drinking water and unsustainable dependence on groundwater aquifers. With many partners across and outside of government, the Natural Resources Agency is working to enable regional water resilience so that communities are better able to withstand drought and flood and secure the water supplies that human and natural systems need to thrive.

In an April 2019 Executive Order, Governor Newsom recognized the need to take stock of California’s water resources and act to address more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, overdrafted groundwater basins, aging infrastructure, and other challenges magnified by climate change. In fulfillment of that Executive Order, in July 2020, the Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Food and Agriculture together released a final Water Resilience Portfolio. The Portfolio includes a diverse set of actions to be taken by state agencies to empower local and regional entities to meet their unique challenges, while delivering on the state’s responsibility to provide tools and leadership, advance projects of statewide scale and importance, and help address challenges that are beyond the scope of any region.

Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, California state agencies are advancing projects at the Salton Sea to improve air quality and provide critical environmental habitat for birds along the Pacific flyway. Flows into the Salton Sea have declined in recent years, and the result is a shrinking, increasingly saline lake. As the Sea recedes, previously submerged lakebed is being exposed, creating dust that can be hazardous as it dries and becomes airborne.

The California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are focused on implementing the Salton Sea Management Program, which includes a 10-year plan that aims to improve conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects around the Sea.
Since early 2019, the State Team has significantly improved its capacity to deliver projects at the Sea. Informed by constructive input from community members, local leaders and interested groups, the team is working with partners to make substantial progress on the ground in 2020 to improve conditions for communities near the Sea. The state team also is working to improve transparency, engage community members in project planning and design, and incorporate local input in the SSMP project planning process.


In the nation’s most ambitious river restoration effort, the states of California and Oregon are working with tribal and private partners to remove four defunct dams from the Klamath River. Stretching from the volcanic Cascades of Southern Oregon through the Klamath Mountains to the Pacific Coast in California, the Klamath River is linked to the health of surrounding communities, businesses, and environment. It has underpinned the physical wellbeing and cultural identity of native Tribes for thousands of years and once was the third-largest salmon producing river on the West Coast. The partners are working to gain federal approval of the transfer of the four dams from a Portland-based electric utility for the sole purpose of removal. Dam removal will reopen nearly 400 miles of salmon spawning habitat, help reverse declines in native fish populations, and eliminate slack river conditions that generate toxic water quality problems.

Voluntary Agreements to Improve Habitat and Flow in the Delta and its Watersheds

Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, state agencies are working with local water agencies, conservation groups, and federal agencies to improve habitat and water flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and its major rivers. The Delta and its rivers supply 35 million people and nearly 8 million acres of farmland with water, and support hundreds of species of native fish and wildlife, many of which are in peril due to degraded environmental conditions.

Over the past several decades, populations of salmon and other native fish that migrate through or inhabit the Delta have declined dramatically, while others have been brought to the brink of extinction. Multiple factors contribute to these declines, and there is a clear need to improve environmental conditions to promote recovery of these species.

The California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency are leading an effort to negotiate voluntary agreements to improve conditions for native fish through an unprecedented commitment to increased flows for the environment, creation of 60,000 acres of new and restored habitat, and $5 billion in new funding for environmental improvements and science.

If successful, these agreements will implement the State Water Resources Control Board’s legally required update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan and improve conditions for native fish through a broad set of tools. The agreements hold the potential to achieve meaningful landscape-scale solutions to meet the needs of the Delta and its major rivers, reconnect our floodplains and wetlands to the rivers and estuary, and comprehensively manage these vital watersheds from the Sierras to the sea.

A Collaborative Approach

State agencies have shared the framework for voluntary agreements that outlines a 15-year program to improve environmental conditions, in an adaptive way, through new flows dedicated to the environment and the most extensive creation of habitat in California history.

Building on years of work, the team has developed a science-driven framework that holds the promise to improve environmental conditions and meet the State Water Board’s legal requirement to provide for reasonable protection of beneficial uses.

The framework provides for up to 900,000 acre-feet of new flows for the environment above existing conditions in dry, below-normal and above-normal water year types, and several hundred thousand acre-feet in critical and wet years to help recover fish populations.

It also provides for 60,000 acres of new habitat, from targeted improvements in tributaries to large landscape-level restoration in the Sacramento Valley. Habitat improvements include creation of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and smelt, completion of high-priority fish screen projects, restoration and reactivation of flood plains, projects to address predation, and fish passage improvements.

In addition, the framework outlines $5.2 billion in investments funded by water users, the state and the federal government to improve environmental conditions and science and adaptive management. It also establishes a governance program to strategically deploy flows and habitat, implement a science program and develop strategic plans and annual reports.

Next Steps

In coming weeks and months, the California Natural Resources Agency and CalEPA will work with water users and other participants to refine the proposed framework into a legally enforcement program. The refined document will then be submitted to the State Water Board where it will undergo a third-party scientific review, environmental review and a public approval process by the State Water Board.


PowerPoint presentation on framework shared with voluntary agreements participants on February 4, 2020

Fact sheet on the framework

Op-ed by Governor Gavin Newsom published in CalMatters on February 4, 2020

Previous documents

July 1, 2019, Voluntary Agreement progress report
March 1, 2019, update to the State Water Board
December 12, 2018, presentation to the State Water Board on December 12, 2018

Setting California on a path toward reliability, restoration and resilience in California Water.

The California Water Action Plan – issued at the direction of Governor Brown in January 2014 and updated in 2016 – set forth 10 priority actions that guide the state’s effort to create more resilient, reliable water systems and to restore critical ecosystems. In the nearly five years since the plan’s release, state agencies and their local, federal and tribal partners have made steady advances on all 10 priority actions.

NEW - Read the Water Action Plan Summary of Accomplishments 2014-2018 here.

Older documents:
Read the 2016 Water Action Plan Update here.
Read the January 2014 California Water Action Plan here.
Read the 2015 implementation report here.
Read the 2014 implementation report here.

Learn more about how the State of California is preparing for our water future:

Photo of cup of water

 Water Use and Quality Regulations





 Local and Regional Water Projects




Restoration activity

 Restoring and Protecting Our Natural World




State Water Project Construction

 Modernizing and Upgrading the State Water Project