State Releases California Water Plan Update 2023: A Roadmap to Water Management and Infrastructure for a Water Resilient Future


Close-up of water from Lake Oroville. Photo taken October 28, 2020.

Close-up of water from Lake Oroville. Photo taken October 28, 2020.

The 2023 update focuses on equity, watershed resilience, and climate urgency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the final version of California Water Plan Update 2023. This plan is a critical planning tool and can now be used by water managers, such as water districts, cities and counties, and Tribal communities, to inform and guide the use and development of water resources in the state.


California Water Plan Update 2023 began with the vision: 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 vision, California Water Plan Update 2023 focuses on three intersecting themes: addressing climate urgency, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management.


“With climate change posing uncertain challenges, California Water Plan Update 2023 highlights the importance of innovation and investments in the state's watersheds, water systems, and frontline communities,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “This plan helps build a future where all Californians can be more water resilient and how we can all take action to adapt our communities to thrive in more extreme weather conditions.”


Getting to the final version of California Water Plan Update 2023 was a collaborative effort. From Tribal engagement to public workshops to meetings with other state agencies, the feedback and suggestions DWR received were included in California Water Plan Update 2023, making it truly California’s Water Plan.


California Water Plan Update 2023 weaves equity throughout the document and dedicates a full chapter to this very important topic. The term frontline communities, defined as those communities who experience the “first and worst” of environmental consequences, is introduced and highlighted as a population of California that needs to be incorporated in decision-making processes. For the first time ever in a California Water Plan, an entire chapter is dedicated to the challenges, strengths, and resources of California Native American Tribes. Chapter 7, “Strengths and Resources of California Native American Tribes" was co-authored by members of the California Water Plan Tribal Advisory Committee consisting of Tribal Chairs, members, and representatives. Addressing these equity challenges is crucial for climate adaptation and community resilience for all who live in California and is in accordance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-16-22 which directs State agencies to take critical actions and address equity in all strategic plans and updates.


“Climate change and weather whiplash threaten the future of our water systems,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We clearly need to adapt to these changes as quickly as possible so California will continue to thrive. California Water Plan Update 2023 guides our way forward, laying a roadmap for updating our water management and infrastructure to ensure a resilient water future.”

California Water Plan Update 2023 lays out a path toward its vision through seven objectives:

  1. Support watershed resilience planning and implementation – The State will prioritize actions, programs, and funding so local communities can improve and accelerate climate resilience planning and implementation in their watersheds.
  2. Improve resiliency of “backbone” State, federal, and regional built water infrastructure – As built infrastructure ages, it must become more resilient to adapt its operations for climate change, be better integrated with other systems, and improve information sharing.
  3. Improve resiliency of natural “backbone” infrastructure – Built infrastructure relies on natural infrastructure, such as rivers, lakes, groundwater basins, and more. Improving resilience means faster ecosystem restoration and identifying key ecosystems and groundwater basins.
  4. Advance equitable outcomes in water management – Resilience for California means resilience for all. However, inequities exist in California’s institutional systems. Recommendations include improving community outreach, engagement, and access to State assistance programs.
  5. Support and learn from Tribal water and resource management practicesCalifornia Native American Tribes have a history of sustainability managing water and other resources. We must support and learn from Tribal water management practices and help Tribal communities address ongoing challenges like access to funding, engagement, and water rights issues.
  6. Support and increase flexibility of regulatory systems – Regulatory programs that are flexible and adaptable to meet the challenges of changing hydrology must be supported.
  7. Provide guidance and support continued resources for implementation of actions toward water resilience – Sustainable resources such as funding at the local, state, federal levels are needed to develop statewide and watershed resilience. This objective’s recommendations align resources with the needs of California water management. 

Each objective contains multiple recommendations and actions to achieve the listed objectives.


For decades, the California Water Plan has evolved as a strategic blueprint for managing and developing the state's water resources. 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. The 2023 update has been shaped by the Water Resilience Portfolio, input from state agencies and interested parties, state needs and priorities, and the Governor's commitment to climate action, as demonstrated in California's Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future.


Watershed Resilience Pilot Program

Chapter 5 of California Water Plan Update 2023 calls for implementing strategies that will help frontline communities strengthen local water supply and climate resilience. From this recommendation, DWR is launching the Watershed Resilience Program, which will award five watersheds a total of $10 million to be announced later this month. These funds will be used to assess local climate variability and risks, while developing strategies to adapt to climate change and weather whiplash.

California Water Plan Update 2023 Webinar

DWR is hosting a two-hour webinar on Monday, April 29, 2024 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. to highlight the key points of California Water Plan Update 2023. The webinar will also highlight upcoming projects and funding that put California Water Plan Update 2023 into action. To attend this webinar please register via Zoom.


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DWR Public Affairs Office