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California’s Future: Water


Water management in California has always been challenging. The state’s variable climate is marked by long droughts and severe floods, with stark regional differences in water availability and demand. California has adapted by building a vast network of storage and conveyance facilities to deliver water from the wetter parts of the state to population and farming centers in the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California.

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is a fragile link in the state’s water supply network, and a plan to address supply reliability, known as California WaterFix, faces many hurdles. California’s extensive network of dams is aging. Agricultural demand is becoming less flexible, as farmers are increasing tree crops (especially nuts), which must be watered every year. Conflicts are growing between human water use and water needed to support fish and other wildlife. And the latest cycle of droughts and floods provides a glimpse of an uncertain future under climate change.

California’s water management challenges are complex, but they can be addressed. Solutions will involve difficult and sometimes costly trade-offs, as well as contentious legal and political changes.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the PPIC Corporate Circle and the PPIC Donor Circle.

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