New Case Studies: A Call for Action on Water in Response to California’s Changing Climate

April 27, San Francisco, California — Today SPUR, along with the Pacific Institute and Greenbelt Alliance, released Watershed Moments: Case studies in Water Management for California’s Changing Climate.

The state’s severe drought — following close on the heels of the 2012-2017 drought — is a call for action. Climate scientists predict that California will experience longer, more frequent droughts, punctuated by periods of heavy rain and flooding as the climate warms. Yet other places in the world flourish with much drier climates than our state.


There are solutions available to adapt to a changing climate – but they require managing water differently. The six case studies featured show how local leaders can shift from an old system that relied mainly on importing massive amounts of snowmelt from the Sierra to relying on more local, sustainable water supplies.


SPUR, Greenbelt Alliance, and Pacific Institute teamed up to highlight six examples of what water management could look like in the 21st century.

  • Valley Water in Santa Clara County is scaling up its recycled water efforts faster than other water districts in the Bay Area. The district aims to more than double its supply of recycled water by 2040.

  • Orange Memorial Park in South San Francisco is being retrofitted to capture, treat and use the water that falls as rain in its watershed, reducing water pollution and flood risk while providing water supply.

  • Google’s planned Bay View campus will use onsite water reuse and water efficiency measures to become a net-positive water development, meaning the building will generate more non-potable water than it uses.
  • Conservationists fought – and won – to preserve Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County as agriculture and open space. Their efforts will also protect South Bay drinking water from contamination and reduce flooding risk in San José.
  • Soquel Creek Water District in Santa Cruz County implemented a water-neutral development policy, where new developers pay a fee to offset their water demand with efficiency improvements elsewhere in the system.
  • Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Commission, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in San Francisco, is piloting programs to decrease water use by 20%.

Read the case studies and related 2021 report “Water for a Growing Bay Area: How the Region Can Grow Without Increasing Water Demand” here

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Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies. Its mission is to create and advance solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges. From working with Fortune 500 companies to disenfranchised communities, the Pacific Institute leads local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies and delivering meaningful results.