Water Authority Updates Long-Term Plan to Protect Economy, Quality of Life

The Urban Water Management planning process is a critical part of meeting the long-range water supply needs of the San Diego region for both normal and dry year weather conditions. As San Diego County and California face increasingly unpredictable climate patterns, new state planning requirements will prepare the Water Authority for rare scenarios to continue to be a reliable and dependable wholesale water supplier to the region.

An update to the regional plan for meeting its long-term water needs is under development by the San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration its 24 member agencies. Once completed, the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan will serve as the long-term guide to ensure a reliable water supply that sustains the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion economy.

The Water Authority started the current planning process in January 2019 by coordinating with its 24 member agencies to create a long-range baseline water demand forecast. A draft of the Water Authority’s 2020 plan is expected to be released to the Water Authority Board of Directors and the public in January 2021 for a 60-day public comment period. The Board is expected to consider adoption of the final plan in April 2021. The 2020 plans must be submitted to the state by July 1, 2021.

Urban Water Management Plan elements

Urban water suppliers in California are required to adopt and submit Urban Water Management Plans every five years. The Water Authority’s 2020 plan will include information on multiple subjects, including a baseline demand forecast, water-use efficiency savings, imported and local water supplies, a supply reliability assessment, scenario planning, and a shortage contingency analysis.

Basic elements of Urban Water Management Plans include:

  • Assessment of the reliability of water supply sources over a 20-year planning time frame
  • Description of demand management measures and a water shortage contingency plan
  • Discussion of the development of imported and local water supplies

New State Planning Requirements

The California Urban Water Management Planning Act (Division 6 Part 2.6 of the Water Code §§10610 - 10656), enacted in 1983, is a part of the California Water Code and requires urban water suppliers in the state to adopt and submit an updated plan to the state Department of Water Resources every 5 years.

State legislation passed in 2018 established new requirements for urban water management plans, which now must include a water shortage contingency plan and drought risk assessment methodology that compares available water supplies with projected water demands. Under these requirements, water suppliers must now plan for a dry period that lasts for five consecutive years, an increase from the previous requirement of three years.

Urban water suppliers are defined as agencies that provide water for municipal purposes to more than 3,000 customers or supply more than 3,000 acre-feet of water annually. The Water Authority and the majority of its member agencies fit this definition.