Now we know.

Had the State taken Integrated Regional Water Management as seriously as it is now taking groundwater sustainability, it would have required the establishment of “Regions” with powers and authorities like the new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Now that I see a serious effort, I am confirmed in my belief that IRWM wasn’t one.


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2 responses to “Now we know.

  1. Anonymous


  2. OPR

    Integrated Regional Water Management goes back a bit longer than the 2005 Water Plan Update which you suggest as the launch date. The term was actually plunked into the CA Water Code by then-State Senate Water Cmte chair Jim Costa in the mid-1990s. I think the term had bubbled up out of the Santa Ana River watershed planning process and tickled Costa’s ear. His new code section neither mandated nor authorized a thing, it simply said that integrated regional water management existed in the state (within the ‘department’ probably)

    There were some interesting things going on in California watershed politics 20 years ago. Water bonds – that parade of ‘clean, safe, reliable’ water bond ballot measures – had begun to march across the California political landscape. That spurred the ‘watershed movement’, bringing watershed protection and restoration-interested folks together at the watershed level (we were so taken with the notion we actually produced a federally funded all-about-it –

    We developed what was very nearly a successful ‘CalFed’ grant project to be funded from one of those first ‘clean, safe, reliable’ water bonds to implement plans for opening up salmon habitat in Butte Creek in which we associated the late Marc Reisner

    Everyone on the west – Chico – side of Butte County seemed supportive of our project.

    The county-seat folks from Oroville were aligned with PG&E, however, which opposed our opening up of Butte Creek to salmon. The CalFed folks bent to Oroville/official county government’s will and for me that ended the age of innocence of that ‘watershed movement’, the notion that watershed boundaries rather than county lines could define the populist movement to restore health and salmon to California’s watersheds ….

    What happened next was that the that the State’s fiscal situation went right into the toilet (my explanation of why here

    And both State and local agencies were suddenly bereft of funding. They began then – understandably – to circle their wagons around those ‘clean, safe, reliable’ bond funds, to make up for the hit their general fund funding stream had taken

    It proved easy, then, to elbow the watershed community-based non-profits that the brief ‘watershed movement’ had spawned out of the funding stream and for local government agencies and the State Department of Water Resources to herd the bond funds into the new ‘IRWM’ strictures in the name of funding rationalization.

    The good news, I guess, is that IRWM – the concept – brought some bureaucratic rationality to the spending prioritization of those (literally) billions of dollars of ‘clean, safe, reliable’ water bond funds

    The bad news is that the State and local government agencies’ needs to jump on/control those bond fund dollars, given their destitute situation in the wake of the 2002 implosion of the State fisc, largely snuffed out that populist watershed movement (what ‘feeling the Bern’ will feel like when Hil totally locks up the nomination). The snuffing came, quite simply, from the new (DWR-local gov’t) regime’s requirement that watershed restoration projects should be essentially ‘shovel ready’ and the watershed community-based groups simply didn’t have the resources that local government agencies did to do the necessary environmental compliance paperwork upfront – without grant funds with which to do so.

    Integrated Regional Water Management will prove an excellent organizing principal. But it’s had a lengthy, somewhat unsavory history.

    Bill Kier