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California State Agencies Release 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio in Response to Governor’s Executive Order

California State Agencies Release 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio in Response to Governor’s Executive Order
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In April of 2019, California Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-10-19 directing certain state agencies to develop a water resilience portfolio strategy to address long-term water management challenges and opportunities in California. (See,

Those agencies recently released the 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio report (Resilience Report).


According to the Resilience Report, California faces unique and unprecedented water security challenges. The Resilience Report anticipates climate change effects leading to unpredictable wet seasons reducing snowpack and runoff predictability. The Resilience Report further states that California’s growing population, depleted groundwater basins and aging water infrastructure also present 21st century water supply and reliability challenges. For example, the Resilience Report highlights California’s highly variable statewide annual precipitation ranging from 100 million acre-feet in dry years to more than 250 million acre-feet in wet years.

In an effort to retool California’s water management system, the Governor directed state agencies through Executive Order N-10-19 (Executive Order) to develop a water resilience portfolio.

Seven Principles to Follow

The Executive Order identified seven principles on which to base the portfolio:

  • Prioritize multi-benefit approaches that meet several needs at once;

  • Utilize natural infrastructure such as forests and floodplains;

  • Embrace innovation and new technologies;

  • Encourage regional approaches among water users sharing watersheds;

  • Incorporate successful approaches from other parts of the world;

  • Integrate investments, policies, and programs across state government; and

  • Strengthen partnerships with local, federal and tribal governments, water agencies and irrigation districts, and other stakeholders.

In complying with the Executive Order’s directives and principles, state agencies solicited broad input from tribes, local and regional agencies, individuals, groups, leaders and stakeholders throughout California in developing the Resilience Report.

The 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio Resilience Report

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order calling for a portfolio of actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

The Resilience Report seeks to avoid a “one-size-fits-all approach.” Instead, it emphasizes the principle that water resilience will be achieved primarily at the regional level responding to local challenges. The Resilience Report encourages agencies and groups to create and improve partnerships to integrate water management and planning, especially for shared watersheds and aquifers. Finally, the Resilience Report prioritizes the role of state government to include continuing to establish statewide standards, supporting projects having statewide significance and addressing issues beyond regional scope.

The Resilience Report identifies four broad approaches: 1) maintain and diversify water supplies; 2) Protect and enhance natural ecosystems; 3) Build connections; and 4) Be prepared. (See,

Maintain and Diversify Water Supplies

In response to anticipated reductions in snowpack and increases in the number and severity of droughts, the Resilience Report emphasizes establishing regional water security by diversifying supplies and not relying solely upon a single water source. The Resilience Report acknowledges that diversification will require different approaches for each region. It encourages the State to invest resources and work with each region and local agencies to prioritize achieving greater water use efficiency, improving groundwater management, increasing and improving recycled water and desalination projects and increasing capture of rain and stormwater runoff.

Protect and Enhance Natural Ecosystems

The Resilience Report addresses the need to protect and restore the health of California’s natural ecosystems. The Resilience Report calls for State agencies to take an active leadership role in accomplishing multiple objectives. Those objectives include preserving aquatic habitat to help fish and wildlife endure droughts and to adapt to climate change conditions, supporting the expansion of wetlands to create habitat and to recharge groundwater basins, simplifying permitting to expedite multi-benefit and multi-partner projects, upgrading and maintaining state wildlife refuges, hatcheries and restoration areas, improving soil health and conservation practices on California farms and ranches and restoring habitat at the Salton Sea.

Build Connections

The Resilience Report asserts that California’s water management system is highly decentralized and has led to thousands of entities managing water in “silos.” The Resilience Report calls for significant improvement in regional connectivity, including establishing necessary physical connections, pipelines, aqueducts and storage infrastructure to move water from places of surplus to places of scarcity. The Resilience Report encourages the State to establish policies and programs designed to improve physical infrastructure to store, move and share water more flexibly than in the past, including by simplifying and expediting the water transfers process. Building partnerships, improving collaboration, minimizing regulatory burdens on local water agencies and taking action toward shared water management are key components of the Resilience Report.

‘Be Prepared’

The Resilience Report highlights the need to help regions prepare for new flood patterns and droughts. It identifies a high priority need to review state, federal, and local permits for flood management projects and to recommend ways to simplify permitting processes. It also identifies the importance of supporting regional decision making with watershed-scale climate vulnerability assessments that include strategies to address risks to water supply, ecosystems, and water quality.

Conclusion and Implications

The security of California’s water supply requires proactive planning to meet both today’s challenges and the anticipated risks and opportunities of the future. The Governor’s Executive Order and the responsive Resilience Report mark meaningful steps toward achieving those objectives at the State, regional and local levels. Even with a plan, the difficult work of implementation lies ahead.

(Chris Carrillo, Derek R. Hoffman, Mike Davis)