CA Utilities Formalize Commitment to One Water with Plans for the Future

Danielle Mayorga, US Water Alliance | October 25, 2016

At the US Water Alliance, we are promoting a one water movement – where all water has value and is managed in an integrated, innovative, and inclusive way.  Across the country, we are seeing examples of local water leaders and community stakeholders coming together to develop one water plans for managing all water resources—drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, groundwater, recycled water, surface water—across all watersheds in a city or region. By taking an integrated approach, water leaders can identify the range of challenges and look for comprehensive solutions for managing these resources in a holistic, sustainable, and cost-effective way. 

This is particularly urgent in California, where after five years of drought, utilities are developing long-term one water plans to maximize all water resources in this new normal. While strains on water supplies may have spurred these plans, they cover a range of issues from water quantity to water quality to overall system resiliency.

Santa Clara Valley Water District’s One Water Plan will provide a roadmap for addressing water supply, water quality, flood protection, climate change, baylands, ecological resources, open space, and agricultural challenges across the five watersheds in California’s Silicon Valley. As part of the planning process, the district recently released a One Water Map tool which allows the community to explore local water topics and weigh in on their water concerns.

In Los Angeles, leaders from city departments, regional entities, and local stakeholder groups are working together to develop One Water LA, a long-term plan for achieving a more resilient way to manage the city’s future water needs through collaboration, integration, and public involvement and reduce the city’s reliance on imported water. When it’s released in 2017, the One Water LA 2040 Plan will align water management strategies and policies, as well as identify opportunities to provide multiple benefits across environmental, economic, and societal goals. 

And this week, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced OneWaterSF to improve water and energy resiliency and reliability in the city, and optimize creative solutions for managing San Francisco’s precious water resources. Guided by principles that apply the right resource to the right use, harness clean energy opportunities at the nexus of water management, and pioneer latest water innovations, OneWaterSF formally aligns successful programs across the agency under a shared vision.

These models reveal promising principles for effective one water plans:

  • One water plans do not replace existing planning efforts, such as the Integrated Regional Water Management, but does provide an opportunity to define a collective vision to guide water projects, policies, and investments.
  • Defining guiding principles will help facilitate the planning process, set objectives, and deliver on the future plan.
  • One water plans must be aligned with- or integrated into city-wide sustainability or climate resilience planning efforts.
  • Holistic water management has the opportunity to provide multiple benefits to city residents--for example, green streets and open space, educational programs, watershed protection, economic generation, job creation and workforce development, and energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.  
  • In addition to collaboration within the water industry, stakeholder participation and community engagement must be a priority throughout the one water planning process.

One water plans are a way for cities and regions to formalize their commitment to the one water management and resource stewardship, align programs and policies under a shared vision, catalyze additional benefits, and create a more resilience water future for their city.


Image courtesy of One Water LA.