About the IRWM Program

Integrated regional water management (IRWM) is an approach to water management that is being strongly promoted by State water managers and legislators as a way to increase regional self-sufficiency. IRWM encourages local water resource managers to take a proactive, leadership role in solving water management problems on a local level through collaborative regional planning. This regional approach is considered necessary in order for water managers to be able to cope with the impending water management challenges ahead.

The California Water Plan is the State’s blueprint for managing water resources. Updated every five years, the California Water Plan provides a framework for water managers, legislators, and the public to consider options and make decisions regarding California’s water future. The California Water Plan Update 2009 stated: “For more than 200 years, California water and flood management systems have provided the foundation for the state’s economic vitality, providing water supply, sanitation, electricity, recreation, and flood protection. However, the climate patterns that these systems were designed for are different now and may continue to change at an accelerated pace. These changes collectively result in significant uncertainty and peril to water supplies and quality, ecosystems, and flood protection; and our water systems cannot be operated as they were originally designed” (vol. 1, p. 2-9).

Integrated regional water management offers an approach for managing the uncertainties that lie ahead. While the traditional approach to water resource management has typically involved separate and distinct agencies managing different aspects of the water system, i.e., water supply, water quality, flood management, and natural resources, integrated regional water management considers the hydrologic system as a whole. The IRWM planning process brings together water and natural resource managers, along with other community stakeholders, to collaboratively plan for and ensure the region’s continued water supply reliability, improved water quality, flood management, and healthy functioning ecosystems—allowing for creative new solutions, greater efficiencies, and an increased promise of long-term success.

IRWM Legislative Background

California voters have passed several statewide bond measures providing billions of dollars to support local and regional water management activities. In November of 2002, California voters passed Proposition 50 (the “Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act”), approving the IRWM Program, administered jointly by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR). The purpose of the IRWM Program is to “encourage integrated regional strategies for management of water resources and to provide funding, through competitive grants, for projects that protect communities from drought, protect and improve water quality, and improve local water security by reducing dependence on imported water.” Proposition 50 authorized $500 million in grant funds for IRWM projects.

In November 2006, California voters passed Proposition 84, the “Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Act of 2006.” Administered by DWR, Proposition 84 included an additional $1 billion in funding for the IRWM Grant Program. Of that $1 billion, $52 million had been allocated specifically for projects within the Central Coast Funding Area. Proposition 1E, the “Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006,” was also passed in 2006, authorizing $4.09 billion in State bonds to rebuild and repair California’s most vulnerable flood control structures to protect homes and prevent loss of life from flood-related disasters; and to protect California’s drinking water supply system by rebuilding delta levees that are vulnerable to earthquakes and storms. Proposition 84 and 1E funds have now been fully expended.

In November 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. Proposition 1 authorized $510 million in IRWM funding. Of that amount, $43 million has been allocated to the Central Coast Funding Area for IRWM planning grants, implementation grants, and disadvantaged community engagement.

In order to be eligible for IRWM grant funds through Proposition 1, a project must be contained within an adopted IRWM Plan. According to the California Water Code §10540(c), an IRWM Plan must address at a minimum all of the following:
1. Protection and improvement of water supply reliability, including identification of feasible agricultural and urban water use efficiency strategies.
2. Identification and consideration of the drinking water quality of communities within the area of the plan.
3. Protection and improvement of water quality within the area of the plan, consistent with the relevant basin plan.
4. Identification of any significant threats to groundwater resources from overdraft.
5. Protection, restoration, and improvement of stewardship of aquatic, riparian, and watershed resources within the region.
6. Protection of groundwater resources from contamination.
7. Identification and consideration of the water-related needs of disadvantaged communities in the area within the boundaries of the plan.

An IRWM Plan has been developed for the Greater Monterey County region to fulfill the goals of IRWM planning in the region, and as a prerequisite for obtaining IRWM grant funding for regional planning and project implementation. Go to the “About the Greater Monterey County Region” page to read more about the Greater Monterey County region and about the evolution of the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan.