The 1991 Revolution in Water Management

by George R. Baumli, State Water Contractors, Sacramento, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Water Resources Planning and Management: Saving a Threatened Resource—In Search of Solutions


A revolution in water management took place in California in 1991, the fifth consecutive year of drought. Deliveries from California's major water projects in 1991 were reduced 70 to 100 percent because of extremely low runoff and reservoir storage. Urban areas implemented severe water rationing programs, farmers took land out of production and scrambled for enough water to keep their trees alive. Fish and wildlife also suffered from the low water supply. A Water Bank was successfully implemented and other innovative measures were taken, which averted an economic disaster. California's population explosion continues and water demands greatly exceed the developed water supply because no new water projects have been built for the past 24 years. Superimposed on this critical water supply year were environmental lawsuits and constraints on water project operations by regulatory agencies and endangered species issues. At the same time, unprecedented water policy negotiations were taking place among urban and agricultural water leaders and environmental organizations in an effort to break the impasse on water projects. The events of 1991 described in this paper will permanently change approaches to future water resources management in California.

Subject Headings: Municipal water | Water management | Water resources | Aquatic habitats | Urban areas | Water storage | Resource management | Reservoirs | California | United States

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