California Water Action Plan - 2016 Update

In response to an extended and extreme period of drought across the state, the California Water Action Plan was first released by the administration of Governor Brown in January 2014 to provide a framework for implementing sustainable water management practices over five years (2014‐2019). The actions described in the plan will support sustainable water management in California by providing a more reliable water supply for farms and communities, restoring important wildlife habitat and species, and helping the state’s water systems and environment become more resilient to climate change. Led by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the effort to develop and implement the Action Plan is collaborative and inclusive, involving a broad array of affected state entities, federal, local and tribal partners, and the public. This 2016 update contains revisions to keep the plan current.   

The following 10 Actions make up the Water Action Plan:

1. Make conservation a California way of life;  

2. Increase regional self‐reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government;

3. Achieve the co‐equal goals for the Delta;

4. Protect and restore important ecosystems;

5. Manage and prepare for dry periods;

6. Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management;  

7. Provide safe water for all communities;  

8. Increase flood protection;  

9. Increase operational and regulatory efficiency;  

10. Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.


The Water Action Plan responds directly to climate impacts; for example, as described in setting goals for the management of the California Delta (Action #3).  The Delta is California's major collection point for water, and the region supports farming, wetland and riparian habitats, as well as numerous fish and wildlife species. As described in the report, the current system relies on water flowing through a network of fragile levees that are vulnerable to major floods and sea level rise, all of which puts unacceptable risk on endangered fish populations, the people who live in the Delta, as well as the water supply for 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland.  

Relating to ecosystem protection (Action #4): Over 80 percent of the Central Valley’s historical floodplain, riparian and seasonal wetland habitats have been lost in the last 150 years. In response to these losses and ecological challenges, as well as in anticipation of the effects of climate change on the timing, volume and temperature of water flows, the plan includes activities to protect and restore the resiliency of California's ecosystems that will help support fish and wildlife populations, improve water quality, and restore natural system functions.  

Action #5 for drought preparedness recognizes that  severe dry periods will become more frequent with climate change. The actions identified are specifically designed to address drought conditions and make California’s water system more resilient. 

Action #8 responds to extreme weather events and flooding, acknowledging that the effects of climate change on  precipitation and the state’s water runoff patterns will magnify these challenges. The Plan describes that flood projects done in an integrated, regionally‐driven way can achieve multiple benefits. It is possible through collaborative planning efforts to integrate flood and water management systems, and implement flood projects that protect public safety, increase water supply reliability, conserve farmlands, and restore ecosystems.


The Secretary for Natural Resources submitted to the Legislature in 2015 an implementation report for this plan. Such a report will be issued annually to track the progress made on Water Action Plan goals - and is to include a schedule of activities that the administration proposes for each of the next four budget years, the estimated costs of those activities, and the expected funding source.


California’s Department of Water Resources, CDFA, and the State Water Board will lead implementation of the conservation-related actions in the Action Plan. DWR and CDFA will develop or expand technical and financial assistance programs for the state’s urban and agricultural communities using $100 million provided by Proposition 1 and additional funding from AB 32 Cap and Trade revenues. These funds will leverage local public and private dollars to meet or exceed state conservation mandates, improve local water supply reliability, and provide the added benefit of helping achieve California’s greenhouse gas reduction objectives through associated reductions in water and energy use.




Publication Date: January 14, 2016

Related Organizations:

  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • California Natural Resources Agency
  • California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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