Water & Climate Resilience

Water & Climate Resilience 

Protecting the Region’s Resources

Since 2012, California has suffered its most severe drought in over a millennium, the wettest year on record, the hottest summer on record, and the two largest and most destructive wildfires on record. Climate change is forcing communities across California to grapple with how to become more resilient to drought, floods, fire, extreme heat, and rising sea levels. Meanwhile, California’s aging water infrastructure struggles to accommodate the needs of a growing population and declining ecosystems. The Bay Area Council Water & Climate Resilience Committees are working to add an additional one million acre-feet to the Bay Area’s water supply, improve the efficiency of current water supplies, and launch a statewide movement to support climate adaptation projects.

2020 Activities

  • Implement the California Resilience Challenge to spur innovation in resilience planning while helping local communities prepare in the near term. The Challenge has raised $2.4 million to support climate change adaptation projects statewide, with support from business, utilities, and environmental NGOs across California.
  • Design Upcoming State Water Bond for regional water reliability and flood protection projects.
  • Advise Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio Executive Order to prepare California’s water infrastructure for climate change and to protect the Bay Area’s water supply.
  • Implement Bay Area Council-sponsored water data legislation. AB 1755 (Dodd, passed 2016) will transform California’s antiquated water data system into an open and transparent water data platform capable of conserving water, improving regulatory decision-making, and strengthening water-transfer markets.


Boards and Projects


Committee Co-Chairs

Claire Bonham-Carter, Principal and Director of Sustainable Development, AECOM
Jim Levine, Managing Partner, Montezuma Wetlands


Resilience leadership


The California Resilience Challenge is a statewide effort, led by businesses and a diverse range of partners, to build local climate resilience and support a shared vision for a resilient California in the face of increasing climate threats. The Challenge is seeking submissions for diverse and replicable climate change resilience projects from across California. The projects will reflect California’s diverse geography and showcase leadership in climate change adaptation, with a focus on increasing resilience to droughts, floods, extreme heat, and wildfires. Visit the California Resilience Challenge website.

Recent Wins

08/10/18: South Bay Shoreline Project Fully Funded

Following years of advocacy by the Bay Area Council and its partners, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it would provide full funding for the South Bay Shoreline project. The $177 million project includes the construction of four miles of new levees along the Santa Clara County shoreline, and the restoration of 3,000 acres of wetland habitat, making it the largest wetland restoration project outside of the Florida Everglades. According to a 2015 report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, Santa Clara County is the region’s most economically vulnerable county to extreme-storm related flooding.

07/24/18: CA Water Commission Awards $1 Billion for Bay Area Water Projects  

The California Commission approved $485 million in voter-approved bond funding for the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Pacheco Reservoir Project, a new 319-foot-tall dam Santa Clara County, and $459 million for the Contra Costa Water District to raise Los Vaqueros reservoir by 55 feet. Combined, the two projects would add a total of 255,000 acre-feet of new water for Bay Area residents and businesses. An acre-foot is roughly equal to the amount of water an average household uses in one year. The Sites Reservoir, another project the Council supported, received $816 million. The Council’s Water Committee had identified all three projects as top priority for regional water security.

03/22/18: CPUC Walks Back IOU Overreach

Over 5 million Californians get their drinking water from investor-owned water utilities regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Those utilities rely on private investment to maintain their systems. In exchange, the utilities provide investors a return on their money. The CPUC decides the rate of return, and last month proposed lowering the rate of return that private water utilities could provide to the lowest level in the nation. That could have dried up this important source of investment and jeopardized their ability to ensure the health, safety, and reliability of their systems. The Bay Area Council stepped in, assembled a coalition of other regional business groups, and in public testimony urged the CPUC to make sure California’s investor-owned water utilities remained nationally competitive. On Thursday (March 22), the CPUC unanimously voted to maintain a competitive rate of return that allow utilities to raise the capital they need to keep investing.

10/16/17: SB 231 (Hertzberg) Stormwater Infrastructure — Signed into law

SB 231 (Hertzberg) amends the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act to clarify that stormwater management is a sewer service. Why does that matter? Proposition 218 put restrictions on how local governments can fund programs, but carved out flexibility for water, sewer, and garbage programs to make sure these critical services didn’t get held hostage by politics. SB 231 clarifies that managing stormwater runoff is a key function of a sewer service, which will allow cities across California to more easily capture and clean stormwater to augment local water supplies and protect our rivers and beaches from untreated stormwater runoff. The PACIFIC INSTITUTE ESTIMATES that capturing storm water in Los Angeles and the Bay Area could together yield 630,000 acre-feet per year in new freshwater — more than Los Angeles’ annual water use. Capturing that water, rather than let it continue rushing out to sea, will be essential for preparing California for climate change.

10/06/17: Governor Brown signs SB 252 (Dodd) – Monitoring, Groundwater Overdraft

In 2014, California took the historic step of passing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), becoming the last state in the West to regulate groundwater pumping. However, the SGMA will be phased in over many years, and since its passage more than 3,100 wells in California have gone dry. SB 252 (Dodd) increases transparency about new well drilling applications in critically overdrawn groundwater basins.

07/16/17: State budget includes $800k for implementation of AB 1755 (Dodd)

09/23/16: AB 1755 – The Open & Transparent Water Data Act (Dodd) – Signed into law

California doesn’t suffer from a lack of water data, but from a lack of useful water data. Information about hydrology, flows, water quality, water rights and fish abundance are stored in myriad government databases, nearly impossible to compare and contrast. By locating existing state and federal water data on an open and transparent water data platform, water agencies and farmers will more easily be able to transfer water to where its needed most. AB 1755 requires the Department of Water Resources to create such a platform. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses, and was signed into law by Governor Brown.

06/07/16: Measure AA – Approved by Bay Area voters

Measure AA was approved by over 70 percent of Bay Area voters on June 7, becoming the first fully regional ballot measure to be considered (and approved) by voters in all nine counties. Measure AA established a $12 parcel tax on all Bay Area parcels, and will raise $500 million over 20 years to fund wetland restoration, flood protection and pollution prevention projects along the San Francisco Bay. Climate change and 160 years of development are undermining the San Francisco Bay’s ecosystem, and threatening the region’s coastal residents and infrastructure. A 2015 study estimated the Bay Area is today vulnerable to over $10 billion in damages in the event of an extreme storm event, and will become more vulnerable as sea levels rise.

Policy Leads

Adrian Covert image
Adrian Covert

Senior Vice President, Public Policy


Anna Sciaruto image
Anna Sciaruto

Senior Policy Associate

(415) 946-8704

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