Gov. Newsom Unveils Water Plan to Capture More Water, Defend Against Extreme Weather

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: At another above average snowpack survey, Governor Newsom released the state’s updated Water Plan to protect California’s water supplies from the climate crisis while boosting our ability to capture and store water for when dry conditions return.

PHILLIPS STATION — In the face of the climate crisis, the Newsom Administration is continuing to take action to protect water supplies when it’s dry and to capture more water during wet seasons. In addition to investing billions of dollars to boost water supplies and drastically expanding the state’s storage capacity, the updated California Water Plan demonstrates how planning at a watershed scale provides the most comprehensive solutions for climate resilient water supplies for all Californians.

This plan is directly tied into today’s snow survey, a key indicator of expected runoff that this plan helps both state and local governments capture and store. It recorded 64 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 113 percent of average for this location and above average overall

April Snow Survey at Phillips Station pictured today (top) and in 2015 (bottom), demonstrating extreme weather swings. Photo credit: DWR.

WHAT GOVERNOR NEWSOM SAID: “In the past few years alone, we’ve gone from extreme drought to some of the most intense rain and snow seasons on record – showcasing the need for us to constantly adapt to how we manage our water supplies. The water plans and strategies we’re implementing are each targeted components of our overall effort to deliver clean water to Californians by capturing, storing, and conserving more water throughout the state. This plan is a critical component of that effort.”

Governor Newsom at April Snow Survey at Phillips Station. 

Here are just a couple examples of what California has implemented since the last Water Plan, highlighting its importance:

  • Created a Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge program, capturing and spreading flood flows to recharge aquifers – boosting the state’s water capture and storage abilities.
  • Integrated climate science and research to help vulnerable communities defend against floods and drought.

This plan is a critical component of how California plans to capture more water, store it in reservoirs, replenish and recharge groundwater aquifers, protect against floods, and more. It’s directly tied to the state’s other water strategies:

  • Water Resilience Portfolio. Outlines 142 state actions to protect our water supply from climate impacts by boosting water supplies, restoring natural ecosystems, and building infrastructure to store and move more water.
  • Water Supply Strategy. Hotter and drier weather could diminish our water supply up to 10% by 2040, and this strategy offsets that loss – adding enough storage, recycling, and smarter water use to supply 8.4 million households every year.

These plans and reports are all intertwined, serving as critical blueprints for managing different parts of California’s complex water supply system – the Supply Strategy is offsetting the 10% loss we’re facing, the Resilience Portfolio boosts water supplies on top of that by building more and restoring natural water sources, and the Water Plan guides California’s water management and conservation.

California’s other actions to boost water supplies include:

  • Nearly $9 billion in water investments over the last three years. Track water projects in your community here.
  • Expanded water supply and storage through groundwater recharge and other projects by over 400 billion gallons.
  • Streamlining projects and limiting litigation delays to spur new and improved water infrastructure.
  • Large-scale environmental restoration, including the removal of four dams from the Klamath River – the nation’s largest dam removal project.

More is needed to expand California’s water supplies. During this year’s storms alone, the Delta Conveyance Project could’ve captured enough water to supply 9.4 million people; the streamlined Sites Reservoir Project could hold enough water for 3 million households’ yearly usage.

Listen to the report by KMJ’s AG Director Don York.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the final version of California Water Plan Update 2023. This plan is a critical planning tool and can now be used by water managers, such as water districts, cities and counties, and Tribal communities, to inform and guide the use and development of water resources in the state.

California Water Plan Update 2023 began with the vision: “All Californians benefit from water resources that are sustainable, resilient to climate change, and managed to achieve shared values and connections to our communities and the environment.” To tackle this ambitious vision, California Water Plan Update 2023 focuses on three intersecting themes: addressing climate urgency, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management.

“With climate change posing uncertain challenges, California Water Plan Update 2023 highlights the importance of innovation and investments in the state’s watersheds, water systems, and frontline communities,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “This plan helps build a future where all Californians can be more water resilient and how we can all take action to adapt our communities to thrive in more extreme weather conditions.”

Getting to the final version of California Water Plan Update 2023 was a collaborative effort. From Tribal engagement to public workshops to meetings with other state agencies, the feedback and suggestions DWR received were included in California Water Plan Update 2023, making it truly California’s Water Plan.

California Water Plan Update 2023 weaves equity throughout the document and dedicates a full chapter to this very important topic. The term frontline communities, defined as those communities who experience the “first and worst” of environmental consequences, is introduced and highlighted as a population of California that needs to be incorporated in decision-making processes. For the first time ever in a California Water Plan, an entire chapter is dedicated to the challenges, strengths, and resources of California Native American Tribes. Chapter 7, “Strengths and Resources of California Native American Tribes” was co-authored by members of the California Water Plan Tribal Advisory Committee consisting of Tribal Chairs, members, and representatives. Addressing these equity challenges is crucial for climate adaptation and community resilience for all who live in California and is in accordance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-16-22 which directs State agencies to take critical actions and address equity in all strategic plans and updates.

“Climate change and weather whiplash threaten the future of our water systems,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We clearly need to adapt to these changes as quickly as possible so California will continue to thrive. California Water Plan Update 2023 guides our way forward, laying a roadmap for updating our water management and infrastructure to ensure a resilient water future.”

California Water Plan Update 2023 lays out a path toward its vision through seven objectives:

  1. Support watershed resilience planning and implementation – The State will prioritize actions, programs, and funding so local communities can improve and accelerate climate resilience planning and implementation in their watersheds.
  2. Improve resiliency of “backbone” State, federal, and regional built water infrastructure – As built infrastructure ages, it must become more resilient to adapt its operations for climate change, be better integrated with other systems, and improve information sharing.
  3. Improve resiliency of natural “backbone” infrastructure – Built infrastructure relies on natural infrastructure, such as rivers, lakes, groundwater basins, and more. Improving resilience means faster ecosystem restoration and identifying key ecosystems and groundwater basins.
  4. Advance equitable outcomes in water management – Resilience for California means resilience for all. However, inequities exist in California’s institutional systems. Recommendations include improving community outreach, engagement, and access to State assistance programs.
  5. Support and learn from Tribal water and resource management practices – California Native American Tribes have a history of sustainability managing water and other resources. We must support and learn from Tribal water management practices and help Tribal communities address ongoing challenges like access to funding, engagement, and water rights issues.
  6. Support and increase flexibility of regulatory systems – Regulatory programs that are flexible and adaptable to meet the challenges of changing hydrology must be supported.
  7. Provide guidance and support continued resources for implementation of actions toward water resilience – Sustainable resources such as funding at the local, state, federal levels are needed to develop statewide and watershed resilience. This objective’s recommendations align resources with the needs of California water management. 

Each objective contains multiple recommendations and actions to achieve the listed objectives.

For decades, the California Water Plan has evolved as a strategic blueprint for managing and developing the state’s water resources. Every five years the California Water Plan is updated, as mandated by the State Water Code, to reflect current water conditions and State government priorities. The 2023 update has been shaped by the Water Resilience Portfolio, input from state agencies and interested parties, state needs and priorities, and the Governor’s commitment to climate action, as demonstrated in California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future.

Watershed Resilience Pilot Program

Chapter 5 of California Water Plan Update 2023 calls for implementing strategies that will help frontline communities strengthen local water supply and climate resilience. From this recommendation, DWR is launching the Watershed Resilience Program, which will award five watersheds a total of $10 million to be announced later this month. These funds will be used to assess local climate variability and risks, while developing strategies to adapt to climate change and weather whiplash.

California Water Plan Update 2023 Webinar

DWR is hosting a two-hour webinar on Monday, April 29, 2024 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. to highlight the key points of California Water Plan Update 2023. The webinar will also highlight upcoming projects and funding that put California Water Plan Update 2023 into action. To attend this webinar please register via Zoom.

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