Stemming from the Where We Agree Project, the University of California Berkeley Water Center, Pacific Institute, California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association, and UC Davis Extension have created a set of practical recommendations for policymakers, municipal water managers, businesses, and community groups.

Addressing an urgent need for serious changes in water management and use in California, the groups came together in 2015 for a series of in-depth meetings as part of the Where We Agree Project. 

“It’s much easier to make progress when you start with the important, but less contentious issues,” says BWC Co-director David Sedlak. “If we can do the easy things that make the biggest difference it will give us time to make the more difficult changes.”

This broad spectrum of stakeholders recognized an opportunity to move beyond traditional conversation and conflict to identify pragmatic and achievable solutions to urban water challenges while exploring water technologies and policies that would have broad support. The report was recently released and can be found at:

California has a long list of unresolved and difficult water challenges, made more urgent by the severe drought that is gripping the state. As the state’s population continues to grow and climate changes become increasingly apparent, the pressures to identify and implement solutions to these critical challenges have only intensified.

It’s time to put disagreements aside and concentrate on implementing solutions that we know work and launching innovative approaches to managing the state’s urban water,” said Pacific Institute Water Program Director Heather Cooley. “I am delighted with the progress this group made to create and advance a wide range of positive, on-the-ground solutions to California’s water crisis.”

The group was comprised of representatives from water utilities, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, academia, foundations, and the business sector. The meetings identified key ways to improve urban water management in California. Some key areas of agreement identified by the group include:

  • Expand indoor and outdoor water conservation and efficiency efforts that target residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional users.
  • Increase water reuse at a variety of scales, from a more decentralized building-scale system to a more centralized municipal scale, by adopting a suite of policies to make it more affordable and convenient.
  • Adopt stormwater policies, guidelines, and incentives to facilitate stormwater capture and use. 
  • Improve resilience for future droughts by enhancing planning and data collection and reducing constraints on short-term water transfers during droughts, provided they are protective of ecosystems and communities.
  • Improve the reliability and adequacy of funding for water infrastructure.
  • Integrate water management activities to foster innovative solutions that result in projects that provide multiple services and benefits.
  • Invest in groundwater storage and develop an integrated strategy for maximizing the potential of these projects.


The Berkeley Water Center is an inter-disciplinary gathering of over 70 academic faculty, researchers, post docs and graduate students across several departments at UC Berkeley and the Berkeley National Laboratory pursuing studies in water and promoting water-related research. Together, with external partners in the industry, government, and non-profits, researchers incorporate Public Health, Water Infrastructure, Engineering, Natural Resource Management, Agriculture, Economics and Law at the center to casts a wide net across the university community.

The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that creates and advances solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water challenges through interdisciplinary research and by partnering with a variety of stakeholders. Founded in 1987 and based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future.