What is an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP)?

An IRWM Plan is a voluntary and comprehensive non-regulatory planning document prepared on a region-wide scale that identifies broadly-supported priority water resources projects and programs with multiple benefits. An IRWMP relies upon specific and focused local and sub-regional planning efforts for its foundation, and investigates a broad spectrum of water resources issues including water supply, flood management, water quality, environmental restoration, recreation, land use, environmental justice, stakeholder involvement, and far-reaching community and statewide interests. A key difference in IRWMPs (as compared to other planning documents) is that IRWMPs integrate multiple water management strategies to solve multiple priority challenges. IRWMPs can help attract state and other funding to fund regional projects. Millions of dollars have been allocated for IRWMPs by the state through Propositions 50 and 84. Grants are awarded through the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

Why is California focusing on regional water management/planning?

IRWM planning is a new process created by state water agencies to promote cooperative, “big picture” water planning at the regional level. Historically, individual water agencies have pursued smaller, localized water projects and often competed against neighboring agencies for water and grant funding. Even worse, unincorporated communities, non-profit groups and private water agencies were often left out of the process due to limited staff and funding resources. With the passage of state Proposition 50 in 2002, the state began requiring that applicants seeking state water grants first work together to establish a collaborative, regional approach to water management and find areas of mutual benefit. This requirement also applies to portions of Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E funds.

With this inclusive systems approach, local agencies and governments, as well as other interested stakeholders, can be more flexible and act more efficiently. This approach makes better use of existing local resources. This approach also integrates multiple aspects of managing water and related resources such as water quality, local and imported water supplies, watershed protection, wastewater treatment and recycling, and protection of local ecosystems.

What are the benefits of regional planning?

  • Encourages a broad, long-term perspective
  • Identifies broad benefits, costs, and trade-offs
  • Promotes sustainable resource management
  • Increases regional self-sufficiency
  • Increases regional drought preparedness
  • Uses open forums that include all communities
  • Promotes coordination and collaboration among local agencies and governments
  • Uses sound science, best data, and local knowledge
  • Collaboration strengthens regional clout, reduces conflict, increases benefits across the region and may reduce costs for individual agencies.

What is integrated planning?

Integrated planning involves local agencies and interest groups working together to coordinate planning activities across jurisdictional boundaries. In this regional approach, individual agencies’ efforts are combined in order to leverage resources and meet multiple water resource needs at the same time. For instance, water supply, water quality, and habitat projects might be combined with a flood control project in a manner that benefits a much larger area than the original jurisdiction. The result is a multi-objective approach that multiplies the benefits of any individual agency’s single project.

Why is integrated regional water management planning a good idea?

Water suppliers that form partnerships with other entities in their region can accomplish projects and provide benefits that no single agency can do alone. For example, partnerships may allow agencies to improve their water supply reliability by establishing emergency connections with neighboring water suppliers; increase operational flexibility by participating in regional groundwater management and conjunctive use; protect water quality by participating in regional watershed management; reduce costs by cooperating with other agencies on water conservation and outreach programs; facilitate new projects by contributing to local habitat conservation plans; and help achieve many other regional resource management objectives.

Partnerships can lead to the preparation of integrated regional water management plans and regional eligibility for certain grant funds. Early coordination with land planning agencies may help water suppliers and land planners anticipate and plan for future growth, and make sure that additional regional growth will not exceed water suppliers’ capabilities. Ultimately, regional partnerships will enable optimum management of water and other resources within a region.

Why prepare an IRWMP?

  • Position for Proposition 84 funding ($27 million available for Lahontan region)
  • Retain local control over water management decisions
  • Build and strengthen long-term working relationships (intraregional and with adjacent partners)
  • Forum to build new alliances and discuss planning for future challenges
  • Inform state/federal agencies/legislators of regional needs and required projects
  • Is an IRWMP required for all future water projects?

Is an IRWMP required for all future water projects?

No. Participation in an IRWMP is voluntary. However, if an agency or group is seeking IRWMP grant funding, then the project must be included in an IRWMP and the project sponsor must adopt the IRWMP if the grant is awarded. However, water agencies and groups can still independently pursue projects using their own funding sources. Adopting an IRWMP is not a requirement for federal funding or for non-IRWMP related state funding.

What are the state requirements for development of an IRWMP?

  • Leadership by regional management group
  • Identify regional water related objectives
  • Document range of water management strategies
  • Show “integration” – how water management strategies work together to achieve objectives
  • Implementation strategy, impacts and benefits, data management, relationship to local planning, stakeholder involvement

Will environmental analysis be required to adopt an IRWMP?

No, because an IRWMP is only a planning tool and is not considered a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA Guideline Sections 15262 and 15306). However, the individual project sponsors, i.e., those seeking to implement specific projects, will be responsible for complying with all local and state environmental requirements (e.g., General Plans, Coastal Plans and CEQA). Therefore, participation in an IRWMP does not change the timing or level of any environmental analysis for each project within an IRWMP.

What is Proposition 84?

Proposition 84, Chapter 2, and Proposition 1E, Article 4 (Integrated Regional Water Management [IRWM] Grant Program), administered by DWR, provides funding for projects that assists local public agencies to meet long term water needs of the state including the delivery of safe drinking water and the protection of water quality and the environment. DWR is currently in the initial phases of the funding implementation.

Is an IRWMP another layer of government?

While IRWMPs may be administered by government agencies, the plan itself is non-binding and non-regulatory and is not creating a new “layer” of government. The effort does, however, develop stronger relationships between the various participating agencies and organizations which enables more efficient decisions to be made on water related projects within the planning area. Indeed, the IRWM program should increase local control and prioritization of water needs and projects.

Where in California have IRWMPs been completed and what has resulted from these efforts?

For IRWM grant program purposes, Department of Water Resources has created eleven “funding areas” within the State. Within these funding areas, there have been over fifty regional plans developed so far.

For areas with completed plans, additional funds have been secured to fund projects that utilize multiple strategies resulting in multiple benefits. With increased coordination between the involved organizations, projects that improve water supply reliability; long-term attainment and maintenance of water quality standards; eliminate or reduce pollution in impaired water and sensitive habitat areas; planning and implementation of multi-purpose flood control programs; and drinking water and water quality projects that serve disadvantaged communities have all been undertaken.

For more specific information regarding specific IRWM efforts across California, visit the Department of Water Resources website: http://www.grantsloans.water.ca.gov/grants/implementation/prop84/integregio_fundingarea.cfm

Who is participating in the Inyo-Mono IRWMP?

The Inyo-Mono IRWMP project is comprised of a broad array of stakeholders throughout Inyo and Mono Counties as well as stakeholders from northern San Bernardino and Kern Counties. Currently there are more than thirty public, private and not-for-profit entities actively working towards the goal of establishing and implementing an IRWMP for Inyo and Mono Counties. Those involved represent interests ranging from federal, state, and local government; resource and water agencies; non-profit and conservation organizations; Native American tribal organizations; educational organizations; business interests; agriculture and ranching groups; and individuals having vested interests in how water is managed in eastern California.

The Inyo-Mono IRWMP is governed by two committees. The Regional Water Management Group (RWMG) includes representatives from all entities participating in the IRWM Planning process. Additionally, there is an Administrative Committee which serves as the project’s management team. The Admin. Committee helps guide the larger IRWMP throughout the planning and implementation process by proposing policies, recommendations, and drafts to the larger decision-making body, the RWMG.

Our goal is to have representation from all groups within the planning boundaries that have interests in water resources management. For a list of groups currently participating in the RWMG, please visit the Participants List the program website.

Who can attend RWMG meetings?

We encourage any organization or individual within the IRWMP planning boundaries with interests in water resources planning and management to attend RWMG meetings. For a schedule of RWMG meetings, please visit the Calendar of Events program website.

What is the Memorandum of Understanding?

All parties involved in the Inyo-Mono IRWMP project are guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which is being developed and approved by the RWMG The MOU describes the governance structure and provides “ground rules” defining roles and responsibilities, stakeholder engagement, and decision making among and within the RWMG and Administrative Committees. It is anticipated that the current MOU will be reviewed and revised as the Inyo-Mono IRWMP program continues to make progress. The MOU is available from the program website under the Documents heading.

 What geographical areas are part of the Inyo-Mono IRWMP?

The Inyo-Mono planning region includes Lahontan Sierra Nevada and desert watersheds that share common water resource issues and hydrologic connection as well as share the commonality of jurisdictional governance by Inyo and Mono counties and state and federal agencies. The specific boundaries are:

To the northwest, the Inyo-Mono IRWMP boundary will follow the County division between Alpine and Mono Counties.

To the southwest, the Inyo-Mono IRWMP boundary will follow the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which also matches follows the Inyo and Mono County jurisdictional lines.

To the southeast, the Inyo-Mono IRWMP boundary will follow the following watershed boundaries that share common water resource issues with the Inyo-Mono IRWMP region.These watersheds are shared by Inyo, Kern, and San Bernadino Counties.

  • Indian Wells Searles Watershed
  • Amargosa Watershed
  • Death Valley Watershed
  • Pahrump-Ivanpah Watershed
  • Panamint Valley Watershed

To the northeast, the Inyo-Mono IRWMP boundary will follow the Nevada stateline.

Nevada “Area of Interest” – The Nevada side of the watersheds shared by California and Nevada will be included in the Inyo-Mono’s “Area of Interest”.

A map of the IRWMP boundaries is available at the program website: http://inyo-monowater.org/frontpage-map/

What is the current status of the Inyo-Mono IRWMP?

The initial Inyo-Mono IRWM Plan was completed and approved by the RWMG in late, 2010. You can find a link to the Plan on the Documents page of the Inyo-Mono IRWMP website. This plan will be revised under a Proposition 84 Planning Grant, which was awarded in early 2011. The Phase II Plan is expected to be completed in 2012.

In January, 2011, a proposal was submitted to DWR for the first round of Prop. 84 Implementation grants. 15 projects were included in the proposal. Initial funding recommendations are expected in late May or early June, 2011.

What are the future plans of the Inyo-Mono IRWMP?

Our main priority at this time is writing and submitting the planning grant application to DWR. We expect that the deadline for this application will be early 2009. If DWR funding is secured, the next phase of the Inyo-Mono IRWM Project will be to develop the plan itself that includes funding proposals for those projects recognized as being highest priority based on the Planning Committee’s review. Development and implementation of the IRWMP is expected to take 12-14 months.

What are potential outcomes from the overall effort?

Managing our vital water resources is most efficient and effective when performed cooperatively, rather than individually. In addition, as state funding is becoming more oriented toward regional planning, it is in the Inyo-Mono region’s best interests in order to successfully compete for future funding opportunities. The Inyo-Mono IRWMP will serve as the blueprint to facilitate this type of regional cooperation. Specific outcomes that might result from the process include:

  • Developing a regional plan that considers multipurpose projects that are more affordable even without grants.
  • Leveraging existing work for future funding from State Proposition 84.
  • Solidifying collaborative working relationships with other entities in the region.
  • Setting priorities that must have broad acceptance to attract sustained funding and implementation.
  • Providing access to funds for regional priority project types (most anything water related).
  • Allowing regional prioritization of important projects, including water supply, conservation and efficiency; storm water capture, storage, treatment, and management; groundwater recharge, banking, exchange, recycling and management; groundwater cleanup and contaminant removal and desalting; non-point source/storm water management/monitoring and flood control; and watershed management planning and implementation/habitat/wetlands.

How will interested parties be kept informed of what is happening with this effort?

We strive to keep content on our website as current as possible, if you have questions that are not answered from materials on the website, you are encouraged to contact anyone on the Program Staff. Additionally, periodic briefings will be distributed to local media, and RWMG participants will be providing updates to their various constituencies.

Why should my organization get involved?

Ensuring an open, transparent process is essential to developing an IRWMP that is sustainable and implementable. Ongoing public participation at every stage of the plan development process will help ensure all the key issues are addressed and build the foundation for broad-based support of the IRWMP. For a regional effort to be comprehensive, effective and sustainable, the participation of all key agencies, jurisdictions and interest groups is essential for developing and implementing the plan. Participation is also critical to ensuring that all major issues and interests are addressed in the plan.

How can my group become a part of the Inyo-Mono IRWMP?

By attending an upcoming Regional Water Management Group meeting or contacting program staff to discuss the effort. Please consult the project website for information on upcoming meetings,

What if I have additional questions about this effort?

If you would like more information about the Inyo-Mono IRWMP, feel free to contact any of the Program Staff listed under the contacts link on our website www.inyomonowater.org