California Water Plan 2023: Navigating Climate Challenges with Equity and Resilience


2023 Water Plan Update Cover.

2023 Water Plan Update Cover

From severe, multi-year droughts to sudden flooding, California is experiencing the impacts of the intensifying climate crisis. To better prepare and plan for a future with climate extremes, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the Public Review Draft of California Water Plan Update 2023.


California Water Plan Update 2023 envisions a future where: “All Californians benefit from water resources that are sustainable, resilient to climate change, and managed to achieve shared values and connections to our communities and the environment.


To tackle this ambitious mission, California Water Plan Update 2023 focuses on three intersecting themes: addressing the urgency of climate change, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management. This article highlights the key aspects of the plan and how it can shape a resilient and equitable future for the Golden State. The Public Review Draft of California Water Plan Update 2023 can be viewed on DWR’s website and is open for public comment until Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.


For decades, the California Water Plan has served and evolved as a strategic blueprint for managing and developing the state's water resources. This comprehensive plan is meant to guide water managers, including water districts, cities, counties, and Tribal communities. Every five years the California Water Plan is updated, as mandated by the State Water Code, to reflect current water conditions and State government priorities. These updates are shaped by various factors, including the Water Resilience Portfolio, input from interested parties, state needs, and the Governor's commitment to climate action, as demonstrated in California's Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future.


Below are short summaries of how the themes are addressed in the chapters of California Water Plan Update 2023 to build water resilience.


Addressing the Urgency of Climate Change – Chapters 1 & 2

Climate change extremes impact all water sectors and are expected to worsen. Historical climate patterns can no longer be used to anticipate what will happen in the future. Climate change will impact each watershed differently depending on available water supply, population, water use, infrastructure, and flood preparedness.


Unique for California Water Plan Update 2023 is the introduction and definition of frontline communities as those who experience the “first and worst” of environmental consequences. For frontline communities, addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure adaptation and community resilience.


Strengthening Watershed and Regional Resilience – Chapters 3, 4, & 5

California’s watersheds and regions depend on the natural and built infrastructure that supports and connects them – called backbone infrastructure. Watershed resilience relies on a commitment to restore, maintain, and modernize an interdependent system of natural and built backbone infrastructure.


California Water Plan Update 2023 recommends an expanded role for watershed-scale initiatives led by Tribal governments, local agencies, community leaders, and non-profit organizations. These initiatives are focused on ensuring equity and inclusivity, including the participation of underrepresented voices in watershed-wide conversations.


Achieving Equity in Water Management – Chapters 4, 5, & 6

California can’t tackle climate change alone. To be effective, actions must be coordinated closely between Tribal, state and federal agencies, and local partners. Recognizing existing inequalities and systemic challenges, California Water Plan Update 2023 supports and informs ongoing efforts to advance equity throughout the state.


Incorporating Tribal Voices – Chapter 7

Unique for the 2023 Update, the California Water Plan recognizes the significance of California Native American Tribes' knowledge and practices in enhancing water resilience. Tribal voices play a vital role in conveying the experiences, history, vision, sovereignty, and rights of Tribes in water management. This inclusion ensures that Tribal perspectives are integral to shaping California's water future.


Roadmap to Resilience - Chapter 8

California Water Plan Update 2023 lays out a roadmap to resilience through seven key objectives:


1. Support Watershed Resilience Planning and Implementation.

2. Improve Resiliency of Built "Backbone" Water Infrastructure.

3. Enhance Resiliency of Natural "Backbone" Infrastructure.

4. Advance Equitable Outcomes in Water Management.

5. Support and Learn from Tribal Water and Resource Management Practices.

6. Support and Increase Flexibility of Regulatory Systems.

7. Provide Guidance and Support Continued Resources for Implementing Actions Toward Water Resilience.


How to Submit Comments:

The Public Review Draft of California Water Plan Update 2023 can be found on the DWR website and public comments can be made from Sept. 20 through Oct. 19, 2023.


There are three options to submit public comments: 

1. Completing an online form

2. Submitting comments via e-mail to

3. Postal Mail:

Attn: Francisco Guzman 

California Water Plan Update 2023 

California Department of Water Resources 

715 P Street, 6th Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814


To ensure the California Water Plan team can process comments efficiently, please submit comments by individual Plan sections: overall, Executive Summary, and each chapter.


California Water Plan Update 2023 Plenary

DWR is also hosting the California Water Plan Update 2023 Plenary on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 at the Roebbelen Center in Roseville. This FREE, hybrid event will feature keynote speakers and cover key aspects of California Water Plan Update 2023. Attendees will gain more insight into the plan, have an opportunity to ask questions, and offer direct feedback. Registration is now open for in-person and online attendance.