The Northern California Water Association and water resources managers throughout the Sacramento Valley are continually improving water management to promote regional sustainability and ensure that adequate water supplies are available for multiple benefits in the Sacramento Valley, which includes food, salmon, local communities and birds.

As part of the effort to foster regional sustainability, the water resources managers in the region commissioned a technical report by water management experts to explore water use efficiency in the Sacramento Valley. The report characterizes the hydrologic setting in the region and provides a technical framework to guide water use efficiency efforts. More specifically, the report provides water resources managers with tools to identify, assess, and pursue specific water use efficiency opportunities with an overarching goal to achieve regional sustainability with respect to water resources. This report can be seen at:

Importantly, in the Sacramento Valley, sustainability is not necessarily achieved by maximizing water use efficiency.  Instead, the goal is for the sagacious use of water, where water is prudently used to maximize its benefits.  Sagacious water use enables water management that uses the same molecule of water to provide multiple benefits.  This supports the reasonable and beneficial use of water in accordance with water rights and the California Constitution.

The report articulates a framework for addressing water use efficiency in the Sacramento Valley (given the Valley’s unique hydrologic characteristics and existing condition), establishes a basis for assessing and identifying water use efficiency improvements, and provides a basis for constructive dialogue. The report builds upon decades of continually improving water use efficiency in the Sacramento Valley at the farm, refuge, district, and basin level as shown in the following summary.

Additionally, urban water suppliers in the region are on track to meet and exceed existing requirements in state law to save 20% by 2020. These water suppliers will continue to work to ensure efficient water use under a new statewide approach to regulating urban water use. Enacted in 2018 with Governor Brown’s signature of AB 1668 and SB 606, this new approach is based largely on the Brown Administration’s 2017 “Making Conservation a California Way of Life” framework.

While these bills include a number of new requirements for urban water suppliers that are intended to enhance water use efficiency and water management planning, the most significant provisions establish a new approach to regulating water use by providing each urban water supplier with an annual objective for water use in their service area.

The water use objectives are calculated as the sum of the applicable standards for different types of water use, all of which are intended to reflect the efficient use of water in urban environments. Some of these standards are established in the legislation—for example, the bills define a 55 gallon per person daily standard for indoor residential use until 2025.Other efficiency-based standards for water use will be adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board through regulation. The most significant of these standards will likely be the standard for outdoor residential use, which will be based on factors that include local land use and climate.

For urban water suppliers, the water use objectives are required to be calculated starting in 2023, with implementation of the enforcement related provisions beginning later that year. The bills do not create water budgets for individual water users or customers, but water suppliers who do not achieve their objectives may be ordered to undertake a variety of actions to enhance conservation in their service areas. For more information on efficiency in the Sacramento metropolitan area, see the Regional Water Authority and the summary below.

Additionally, to highlight the active management of water resources in the region, the map below shows the Agricultural Water Management Plans and Urban Water Management Plans in the Sacramento Valley and the comprehensive nature of water management planning in the Sacramento Valley.  All of the agricultural and urban water suppliers in the Sacramento Valley covered by state law have submitted compliant Agricultural Water Management Plans and Urban Water Management Plans.

In total, 45 Urban Water Management Plans and 21 Agricultural Water Management Plans have been developed in the region.  In addition, six Urban Water Management Plans and nine Agricultural Water Management Plans were submitted by entities that were not required to do so by the state.

Importantly, these plans help inform water management actions that enable creative and innovative multi-benefit water management throughout the Sacramento Valley. Water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley are managing resources to benefit fish, birds, farms and local communities.

In addition to benefiting local water management, these plans also contribute to regional approaches and more coordinated river-system water management that promotes increased efficiency, opportunities to provide functional flows where and when they are needed for environmental benefits and to meet multiple beneficial uses as the water moves downstream through this flow-through system.