California Water Plan from Stakeholder Perspective

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Despite its mild climate and diverse natural landscapes and wildlife, California encounters significant problems in terms of water availability for all its inhabitants. As such, the state suffers from water-related extremes (Sprague and Prenger-Berninghoff 19). On the one hand, the occasional droughts pose a threat to the agricultural industry and the well-being of people, especially in the vulnerable rural areas in the California south. On the contrary, one in five Californian lives in the floodplains, which implies that as much as $580 billion in assets are at risk of destruction or damage (DWR, “California Water Plan Update 2018” ES-1). In this regard, the amount of precipitation is explained by La Niña and El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomena (Sprague and Prenger-Berninghoff 19). The former – La Niña – is associated with reduced precipitation levels and drought, whereas the latter ­– El Niño – results in increased rainfall and flooding. Moreover, the problems mentioned above are aggravated by active climate change. Therefore, to address those issues, California authorities have always had the need for clear and concise policy plans.

The first attempts to elaborate programs that would seek to improve the drought and flooding problems in the state were made during the 19th century. According to DWR (“California Water Plan”), the first policy that planned the water distribution in the region was presented in 1873. However, the first serious intention to control, protect, preserve, and distribute the water resources for the sake of the current and future generations was made in 1957 and known as Bulletin 3 (DWR). The design and idea of the latter document served as the template for the modern-time program, which is entitled as California Water Plan. The document is revised every five years (the last being in 2018), providing the analysis of the current condition and up-to-date recommendations. As next year (2023) DWR is planning to issue the updated version of the plan, it is necessary to analyze what factor can ensure the successful implication of the project in practice.

Literature Review

The Management of Complex System

In general, water management in California represents the case of administration over complex spatial systems. It implies that there are numerous agents involved in the realization of the projects, there is no centralized authority, and the interaction between the stakeholders occurs on various levels (Meek and Marshal 1094-1097). In this respect, Meek and Marshal analyzed how this system is effective in developing resilience towards shocks such as extreme droughts (1101). The authors noted that the complex environments have the ability to effectively self-monitor their adaptive capacities and learn how to improve the latter (Meek and Marshal 1101). Indeed, in California, the responsibility for water control and distribution is divided between various agencies and state, municipal, and local governments. The major water system infrastructure operators include the Bureau of Reclamation, DWR, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, to name a few (Sprague and Prenger-Berninghoff 23-24). Therefore, it can be concluded that the relative success of such initiatives as the California Water Plan is explained by the fact that this project exists in the space of complex relationships between various actors.

Collaboration Between the Stakeholders

However, the biggest factor that largely determines the success of the previous attempts to control, protect, preserve, and distribute the water resources is the active collaboration between various stakeholders. In this regard, Quinn argues that it is crucial to keep all the stakeholders involved with the problem (11). One of the methods how to achieve that is to maintain timely and competent communication between actors. For instance, one of the agents that should be constantly reminded of the importance of being mindful about water use is the general public. As for California, Liang et al. that decision-makers use various types of messages to convince residents to control their water usage (541). They include messages that provide direct action tips and evidence of drought and apply loss aversion, social identity, comparisons, and norms, and direct requests strategies to convince people (Liang et al. 543-546). As a result, such an approach would ensure that the society as a whole (in this case) cooperates in achieving the sustainability goal.

The Changing Future

As the 21st century is characterized by active climate change, substantial economic development, and fast innovations in technology, the California Water Plan Update 2023 should consider all these factors in the report. As for the former, it is especially important to consider the actions that would be necessary, for instance, in case the Los Angeles weather migrates to San Francisco (Zilberman and Gordon 11). Additionally, it is important to consider that growing urbanization and economic development are associated with greater water consumption (Zilberman and Gordon 11). Finally, the plan should evaluate the newest technologies that may be applied in the sphere of water control, conservation, and distribution.

Thesis Development

The analysis above revealed several spheres that should be considered by the California Water Plan Update 2023. In this regard, according to the previous research, it is important that the document acknowledges the diversity of agents, possibilities, and opinions. Such an approach would allow gaining critical perspectives and expertise during the plan designing stage and aligning the interests of various parties. Therefore, in order to effectively design the new version of the California Water Plan and successfully achieve the project recommendations in practice, DWR should ensure the effective collaboration of all the involved stakeholders.

Works Cited

The California Department of Water Resources [DWR]. “California Water Plan Update 2018: Managing Water Resources for Sustainability.” Department of Water Resources, 2019.

“California Water Plan” Web.

Liang, Yuhua, Lauren K. Henderson, and Kerk F. Kee. “Running Out of Water! Developing a Message Typology and Evaluating Message Effects on Attitude toward Water Conservation.” Environmental Communication, vol. 12, no. 4, 2018, pp. 541-557.

Meek, Jack W., and Kevin S. Marshall. “Cultivating Resiliency through System Shock: The Southern California Metropolitan Water Management System as a Complex Adaptive System.” Public Management Review, vol. 20, no. 7, 2018, pp. 1088-1104.

Sprague, Teresa, and Kathrin Prenger-Berninghoff. Building Resilience and Planning for Extreme Water-Related Events. Palgrave Pivot, 2019.

Quinn, Timothy. “Forty Years of California Water Policy: What Worked, What Didn’t and Lessons for the Future.” Stanford: Water in the West, 2019.

Zilberman, David, and Ben Gordon. “California Water: The Present and Looking to the Future.” Western Economics Forum, vol. 16, no. 1. 2018, pp. 6-12.

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DemoEssays. 2023. "California Water Plan from Stakeholder Perspective." March 5, 2023.

1. DemoEssays. "California Water Plan from Stakeholder Perspective." March 5, 2023.


DemoEssays. "California Water Plan from Stakeholder Perspective." March 5, 2023.