Managing an uncertain future: climate change adaptation strategies for California's water

Department of Water Resources

Climate change is already affecting California’s water resources. Bold steps must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, even if emissions ended today, the accumulation of existing greenhouse gases will continue to impact climate for years to come. Warmer temperatures, altered patterns of precipitation and runoff, and rising sea levels are increasingly compromising the ability to effectively manage water supplies, floods and other natural resources. Adapting California’s water management systems in response to climate change presents one of the most significant challenges of this century.
What we know:
• Historic hydrologic patterns can no longer be solely relied upon to forecast the water future;
• Precipitation and runoff patterns are changing, increasing the uncertainty for water supply and quality, flood management, and ecosystem functions;
• Significant and ongoing investments must be made in monitoring, researching, and understanding the connection between a changing climate, water resources and the environment;
• Extreme climatic events will become more frequent, necessitating improvements in flood protection, drought preparedness and emergency response;
• Water and wastewater managers and customers – businesses, institutions, farms, and individuals – can play a key role in water and energy efficiency, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the stewardship of water and other natural resources;
• Impacts and vulnerability will vary by region, as will the resources available to respond to climate change, necessitating regional solutions to adaptation rather than the proverbial one-size-fits-all
approach; and
• An array of adaptive water management strategies, such as those outlined in this White Paper, must be implemented to better address the risk and uncertainty of changing climate patterns.


Department of Water Resources. 2008. Managing an uncertain future: climate change adaptation strategies for California’s water. The Resources Agency, State of California, Sacramento, CA. Retrieved from