Blueprint for a Sustainable Water Future

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Based on input from water-policy experts from across the state, California Water Governance for the 21st Century offers a blueprint for a sustainable water future. The report addresses the shortcomings of California's inefficient and inequitable water management regime and offers a range of potential policies and strategies for transforming our water governance system into one that maximizes social and ecological well-being.

The report recommends that California take these next steps:

  • Apply readily available but vastly under-utilized protective legal doctrines, such as the waste and unreasonable use and public trust doctrines;
  • Develop and prioritize instream water rights, to ensure that waterways’ needs are highlighted in decisionmaking;
  • Fund comprehensive data-gathering efforts on surface flows, groundwater levels, and water withdrawals and uses;
  • Enforce water use rights violations, including allowing for direct penalties for violating water right permits, and creating a streamlined process to act on violations of the waste and unreasonable use doctrine; and
  • Simultaneously increase agricultural and urban water efficiency and reduce demand, so that efficiency savings are not simply translated into more use. 

More holistic, thoughtful, and values-driven planning for California’s water future – by Californians – is needed. This is a challenge to which Californians must now rise.  We must:

  • ensure the highest human and environmental needs for water are met first,
  • account for climate and waterway limits, and
  • wisely and equitably allocate remaining water to maximize social and environmental well-being.

Visit ELC's California Waterways page for further reading.