California is moving toward a more holistic approach to managing our water and land resources as the 21st century unfolds. This perspective recognizes the interconnectivity between two traditionally fragmented sectors.
In 2005, the California Legislature passed new laws that enable communities to join together to adopt Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) policies and practices. This comprehensive planning approach considers water resources in the context of an interconnected watershed with a network of regional governance, rather than as a combination of fragmented parts. Unfortunately, the IRWM program is dominated by the water sector and in most regions has not pursued alignment with land use.
Similarly, the Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) mandated through [legislation] establish a framework for aligning land use practices (predominantly housing and transportation) across jurisdictions within a larger geographic region. Yet very few SCSs have taken water resources into account.
While water management and land-use planning remain highly fragmented across the state, we are making progress toward a more integrated approach, especially when setting new state-level policies, regulations and guidance. The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a leap forward in this direction. For the first time, local land use agencies have an opportunity to be full partners with water agencies in shaping groundwater governance. It is too soon to determine how well these two sectors are integrating under SGMA, but early results are promising.