‘Extreme Weather’ Focus of DWR Climate Change Summit


Cindy Messer discusses key policy and institutional challenges during the Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Summit on September 17, 2019.

DWR Chief Deputy Director Cindy Messer (center) discusses key policy and institutional challenges during the 2019 Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Summit . DWR/2019

“Mother nature is changing fast, and we need to change along with her,” California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot told an audience of climate scientists, water managers, and other stakeholders at a climate change conference on September 17 in Sacramento.

At the three-day event, entitled Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Summit: Planning for Change, representatives from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) joined Secretary Crowfoot to highlight how resilience and adaptation to extreme weather have moved to the forefront of state operations.

DWR’s Strategic Plan directs the Department to make climate change a key factor in decision-making and to look at how it impacts infrastructure, operations, and employee safety, explained Cindy Messer, DWR’s Chief Deputy Director.

“We’ve upped our game,” Messer told the audience of nearly 200. “We’re trying to incorporate this way of thinking into everything we do.”

The next phase of DWR’s Strategic Plan will contain steps for updating water infrastructure to ensure it withstands a shifting climate, Messer shared with the group, adding that the Department will be enlisting a climate change specialist to inform asset management.

“We’re looking at flood and water quality issues after wildfires, and watershed health before and after fires,” she added. “California is going to face more of these extremes in the future.”

Throughout the day, multiple speakers from DWR and universities around the country underscored the need to improve climate forecasting. Officials also spoke about the importance of partnering with regional water managers to enhance field-level data.

The summit was held as the Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Food and Agriculture develop a Water Resilience Portfolio that will formalize state priorities related to water through the 21st century. The portfolio, a directive of Executive Order N-10-19 by Governor Gavin Newsom, also seeks to strengthen water policy that recognizes the diversity of California’s many regions and watersheds.

“We want to consider what the regional entities have to say,” Messer said. “The Water Resilience Portfolio will bring high levels of engagement with everyone involved in California water, most importantly those folks with boots on the ground who can see things that the state can’t.”