State Agencies Detail Progress Implementing Water Resilience Portfolio

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Over the past 18 months, state has acted to bolster drought and flood resilience across California

Governor’s California Blueprint includes an additional $750 million in water investments with a focus on conservation, drought relief and protection of fish and wildlife

SACRAMENTO—A new report released today conveys significant progress made in the past 18 months to implement the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Newsom Administration’s water policy blueprint to build climate resilience in the face of more extreme cycles of wet and dry.

The report summarizes work done on each of 142 separate actions called for in the Water Resilience Portfolio. The portfolio was developed by the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and California Department of Food and Agriculture in response to Governor Newsom’s April 2019 Executive Order calling for a suite of actions that would help California communities, the economy, and the environment address long-standing water challenges while adapting water systems to a changing climate.

Recent progress includes assisting tens of thousands of Californians who depend on small water systems or domestic wells that have drinking water supply problems, dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve streamflow for salmon and other native fish species, advancing the removal of four obsolete dams that block salmon passage on the Klamath River, providing extensive financial and technical assistance to local sustainable groundwater management agencies, restoring streams and floodplains, and steadily improving the state’s ability to manage flood and drought.

The 2021-22 state budget included $5.2 billion in water resilience investments across California that will build momentum to carry out portfolio priorities over the next several years. On Jan. 10, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed an additional $750 million in water resilience investments, with a focus on water conservation, drought relief, protection of fish and wildlife, groundwater recharge, and support for local agencies bringing groundwater basins into sustainable conditions.

“We’ve made solid progress building drought and flood resilience across the state in the last 18 months,” said Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “At the same time, accelerating climate change has driven weather whiplash, worsening drought and flood threats in real-time. Recognizing this urgency, we have to deploy historic funding provided by the Governor and Legislature quickly and effectively, in partnership with local and regional partners. Every part of California has unique water supplies, environmental conditions, user needs, and vulnerabilities. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to our water challenges, and the portfolio recognizes that.”

The portfolio builds upon lessons learned in the 2012-16 drought, which exacerbated a long-standing struggle in many California communities. An estimated one million Californians do not have access to reliable supplies of safe drinking water. Many actions in the portfolio aim to help communities maintain and diversify their water supplies.

“Our top priority must be ensuring clean water for all Californians,” said CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “We’re making good progress on that front and advancing water use efficiency, stormwater capture and recycling for long-term drought resilience.” He also noted that the state budget includes $30 million for the State Water Resources Control Board to begin modernizing the state’s water diversion management data system to reduce user error, daylight existing water use metrics and trends, and create efficiencies for the regulated community and regulators.

“Modernizing California’s water right data system will help all water managers with the water supply challenges ahead,” said Secretary Blumenfeld.

Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said the portfolio and recent state budget will help water providers plan for warmer storms and more intense drought in individual watersheds, while also investing in the major water delivery systems that supply multiple regions.

“California built its major water delivery systems nearly a century ago based on precipitation patterns that are changing as average global temperatures warm,” said Secretary Ross. “We need to know what to expect, and we need flexible, well-functioning infrastructure to respond.”

Developed with stakeholder input, the Water Resilience Portfolio was released in July 2020. Thousands of individual local districts handle most water management in California, but the state plays a role in providing funding, operating major infrastructure, developing laws and policies, gathering and sharing data, conducting research, setting standards, catalyzing coordination, emergency response and forming partnerships to address problems beyond the capacity of any single region to address. The actions in the portfolio focus on these state roles and are organized around maintaining and diversifying water supplies, protecting and enhancing natural systems, building connections, and being prepared.

In coming years, state agencies will continue to track portfolio implementation and issue annual progress reports.