San Francisco Bay Area Can Build More Housing Without Using More Water, Finds Report

October 21, Oakland, California – Today the Pacific Institute and SPUR released Water for a Growing Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Area is projected to add two million jobs by 2070, attracting millions more people. To prevent housing from becoming even more unaffordable, the region needs to build 2.2 million new housing units. But the rivers the Bay Area relies on to supply much of its water are already at a breaking point, upstream communities are suffering from a degraded environment, and climate change is likely to make the water supplies even more unpredictable. How can the Bay Area grow and build the housing it needs without taking more water from the environment? 

This report shows that the Bay Area can add two million jobs, 6.8 million people, and 2.2 million homes by 2070 and offset all water use from this growth in two ways: through modest improvements in water use efficiency and by locating new growth in areas that are already developed, known as infill locations. The report also lays out key recommendations for how policy-makers can rise to this opportunity, with a focus on managing water demand with conservation and efficiency, pursuing compact land use strategies with a high share of multifamily housing, and strengthening mechanisms for sharing water regionally. 

These findings are particularly relevant right now, when sixteen Bay Area cities and counties say they have insufficient water supply to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a state-mandated process to set targets for new housing. 

The report was produced by SPUR in partnership with the Pacific Institute. 

View and download the report here