Three local lead agencies, working with a wide range of public and private stakeholders, have completed the 2013 San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Plan and submitted it to the Department of Water Resources for certification. State approval will maintain the San Diego region’s eligibility for up to $56 million in state grants during future funding rounds, which are expected to begin late next year.
The 2013 IRWM plan, developed by a group comprising staff from the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority, sets water management objectives and measurable targets for the county’s 11 watersheds that flow to the Pacific Ocean. It also describes water management challenges and issues, evaluates water management strategies, identifies opportunities to implement the strategies, and establishes a system for prioritizing the strategies. It addresses the potential impact of climate change on water supplies, the relationship between water supply and land use policies, flood management, and partnership opportunities to improve water quality and regulatory certainty.
“To complete the 2013 San Diego IRWM Plan, we brought together a wide variety of interests from both the public and private sectors,” said Cathleen Pieroni, principal water resources specialist for the City of San Diego and a member of the IRWM regional working group. “They helped define the region’s water resources, describe the critical issues involved and establish shared priorities. Given how contentious water issues can be, this was a great accomplishment."
Stakeholders included water suppliers and other public agencies, non-profit groups interested in water and natural resource issues, disadvantaged communities, tribes and watershed advocacy groups. Together, they coordinated and integrated water-related activities to maximize benefits and resolve existing or potential conflicts between stakeholders. The two-year process of updating the IRWM plan involved 13 community meetings in the region’s watersheds to gather information and review elements of the plan. In addition, six public workgroups reviewed different water-related issues and produced material that was incorporated into the final product.
The public comment period ended July 31. It was followed by plan approvals from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors.
“The process used to develop the 2013 plan and the final result show that integrated regional watershed management truly is a collaborative effort where small non-profits can effectively participate in regional water planning,” said San Diego Coastkeeper’s Travis Pritchard, who sits on the IRWM program’s Regional Advisory Committee.
The inaugural IRWM Plan in 2007 created an unprecedented effort to synthesize water resources management in the region. To date, the regional planning process has identified 30 water-related projects that were selected for state grants worth a total of$32.9 million from two voter-approved state water bonds. Those projects included expanding the distribution system for recycled water, acquiring lands for watershed habitat protection and reducing the amount of polluted runoff into local streams. The region also received a $1 million state grant to help pay for updating the IRWM Plan to comply with new state guidelines and requirements.
The IRWM Plan includes a database of water-related projects that have been submitted by local agencies and non-profit organizations for grant consideration. Those projects target a variety of objectives, such as developing local water supplies, protecting water quality, constructing reliable infrastructure, managing flooding, restoring habitat and addressing the effects of climate change on water resources.
For more information about the IRWM Plan, go to www.sdirwmp.org.