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From Storage to Retention: Expanding California's Options for Meeting Its Water Needs

Image representing From Storage to Retention: Expanding California's Options for Meeting Its Water Needs

In 2013, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS) released From Storage to Retention: Expanding California’s Options for Meeting Its Water Needs, which builds on earlier work focused on agricultural water stewardship. The report advocates for an expansion of approaches to storing water that increase supply reliability for specialty crop agricultural production and other beneficial uses while protecting ecosystem health. It encourages management approaches that support a broad range of options, including ecologically sound large-scale reservoirs, a patchwork of on-farm ponds, expanded soil capacity to retain water, and improvements in groundwater recharge, among others. From Storage to Retention highlights both a conceptual shift in water management that it argues is a necessary underpinning of effective water storage, and recommends a set of priority actions that constitute high-leverage opportunities to improve California’s water storage capacity and management.

Project: California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply

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California’s existing storage capacity is being eroded on many fronts, including loss of water storage in the form of snow and ice and diminished groundwater volume. This is exacerbated by an increase in extreme weather events and growing pressures on the state’s water supply. Recognizing that how we talk about storage matters, the members of CRWFS prefaced their assessment by defining storage as the processes that retain water in order to maximize its availability at the times and places it is needed. From Storage to Retention: Expanding California’s Options for Meeting Its Water Needs lays out four principles to ensure effective water retention in the future:

  • Storage integrates all hydrological components affecting water availability, movement, and retention to improve supply reliability statewide for evolving needs.
  • Comprehensive, timely, accurate, accessible, and transparent data and resulting information about our water resources is an essential foundation for effectively managing water storage in California.
  • An effective storage system requires the coordination of policies and regulations, activities, oversight, and accountability of all government agencies to meet local, regional, and statewide needs simultaneously.
  • Water storage and retention for improved water supply reliability and watershed health is facilitated by the availability of new sources of financial support that allow investment in quantified outcomes.

From Storage to Retention also includes a set of priority action recommendations to increase water supply reliability, which fall into the following categories:

  1. Integrated storage regime
  2. Information and data
  3. Institutional coordination
  4. Financing