The Future of California’s Water Supply

Does California have adequate water for future growth?

California’s water crisis has been looming for years. Less reliable water sources, complex water management and distribution systems, and urban growth are just some of the issues that California must address. In 2005, California’s Water Update stated that California water planners “have never included a vision of a truly water-efficient future” (California Water Update, 2005).  This statement is daunting, especially for farmers, areas with sensitive environmental features, such as the Sacramento Delta, regions with scarce water resources, like the Central Valley, and to legislators who must decide what direction the State should go in terms of its water supply.  The focus of this study is to examine water governance and the intricacy of the driving forces, state, and response (DSR) to water issues in California. In this model, California’s development process, ecology, natural environment are the driving forces; water quality, supply and demand, growing population, and land uses and development are the state, or current condition, while the new legislation and advocacy for improved water infrastructure represents the response.

Courtesy of Department of Water Resources, California Water Update, 2009

For the Association of Bay Area Governments, I investigated the water supply and use of the Priority Development Areas (PDAs) that are directly affected by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Delta-PDA Water Supply Assessment

In 1983, California passed the Urban Water Management Planning Act.  The act mandates that every water supplier that provides water to 3,000 customers or more, or provides water to over 3,000 acre-feet of water annually, adopt and implement an Urban Water Management Plan[1].  Plans must cover water reliability, supply, and demand in normal, dry, and multiple dry years, demonstrating that future supply will meet future use.

(Left) Courtesy of the Association of Bay Area Governments (Right) ABAG Projections and Hayward UWMP, created by K. Ongoco

The Delta-PDA Water Assessment is a preliminary look into what the future of water use holds for these affected PDAs and how transformation in the Delta may impact water use.   By comparing water distribution, land use, current use, projected demand, and population projections in the affected areas, ABAG can determine the Delta’s state of water delivery to these areas.


[1] California Water Code Sections (10610 –  10656)