State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008CA247B
Title: Integrated Regional Water Management Planning in California: Developing Institutions for Collective Action
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: 43
Focus Categories: Management and Planning
Keywords:
Principal Investigator: Lubell, Mark
Federal Funds: $ 15,459
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 27,796
Abstract: The overarching goal of this project is to draw on social science theories of institutions and collective action to understand the factors contributing to the success of Integrated Regional Water Management Planning (IRWMP) in California. The IRWMP program provides $380 million of Proposition 50 grant funding for local stakeholders to develop integrated regional water management plans. These plans are designed to encourage the development of collaborative institutions that reduce the fragmented nature of decision-making that has traditionally characterized water management in California. The lack of coordination often results in policies that are detrimental to both human and environmental health, because individual stakeholders have incentives to ignore the regional effects of their decisions

We will investigate several research questions regarding collective action in order to evaluate the factors explaining the success of IRWMP:

The proposed study will focus on the Bay Area IRWMP, which began planning in 2005 and will enter implementation in 2007. The Bay Area IRWMP is based on the boundaries of the Region 2 Water Board. This is a perfect time to observe the evolution of collective-action as it occurs; the project has been running for long enough and but is not yet complete. Lessons learned from the Bay Area IRWMP study will be used to attract funding for a statewide study. The research will occur in three phases:

The requested funds will pay for a graduate student to develop the case study and semi-structured interviews, and a survey research firm to implement the stakeholder survey.

This project directly targets what the UC Water Resources Center states is the "compelling need for studies that involve analytical investigations of alternative policies for managing California's limited water resources." It is difficult to overstate the importance of water management in California for environmental and economic health. Water supply decisions have direct consequences for environmental health and quality, while water quality policies often directly affect water supply availability and costs. These interconnected benefits and costs often appear at the regional or watershed level. At the same time, the history of water conflict is long and storied as individual stakeholders have attempted to secure their preferred water management outcomes. Proponents of collaborative policies like IRWMP claim that regional collaboration can promote a more efficient and effective approach to water management while resolving conflicts among regional stakeholders. The truth of these claims is still an open question among policy scholars and decision-makers. The current status of the CALFED program, a collaboration of 25 state and federal agencies to improve water supplies in California and the health of the San Francisco Bay/ Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, demonstrates the challenges faced by regional water management. IRWMP faces many of the same issues, but at a statewide scale. It is critical for the future of environmental management in California to understand factors predicting the success and failure of such policy experiments.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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