Water scarcity has long been a fact of life across much of the southwestern United States. People have ingeniously adapted to this reality for centuries, from the irrigation structures built by the Hohokam people nearly a millennium ago to some of the largest concrete structures on earth erected during the dam-building era of the New Deal. In the face of new and mounting water supply and overuse challenges (or inefficiencies), the spirit of innovation must carry on. Changing climate patterns, growing populations, and over-tapped aquifer and river systems call for bold strategies to meet water supply needs for this region.
This paper identifies five urban water agencies in California with ambitious plans to reduce or eliminate its use of imported water from the oversubscribed Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and Colorado River systems in favor of sustainable, local water supplies. Each of these five water agencies will shrink its dependence on the Bay-Delta and Colorado River systems between 35 percent and 100 percent by 2035 through investments in water conservation, recycling, urban rainwater and stormwater harvesting, and better groundwater management.