California’s water management system is highly decentralized and complex, made up of thousands of actors that act in largely uncoordinated ways. The majority of decision-making power for water-related issues lies at the local level. Local water suppliers interface with regional and state agencies to obtain imported water and meet environmental regulations, responding to available rainfall, legislative developments, and prices with policies that aim to maintain reliable water for the customers.
Los Angeles replicates this statewide system at a regional scale. Our research examined gaps, overlaps, inefficiencies and successes in the current water management system of LA County to help the region advance goals of Integrated Regional Water Management. Undertaking a thorough analysis of the region’s supply, distribution, groundwater, and water data infrastructure systems establishes the groundwork for a deeper analysis to create a truly integrated, resilient water management system for the region. This research also provides the first comprehensive picture of the current water system in Los Angeles County, comprised of an enormously complex network of institutions and infrastructure that is opaque even to managers. While the analysis is grounded in southern California, water management in the state is equally fragmented and poorly mapped. As concerns emerge, including budget shortfalls, climate change, and population growth, policy measures must promote new technologies, institutional reforms, and collaboration that evolves the current system to meet future challenges.