Pacific Institute

January 9, 2020
Agricultural water use, photo by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services


California’s worst drought on record ended in 2017. While the official end to the statewide drought emergency could have signaled a return in the state to “business as usual” on water use, California residents and public officials were eager to make sure the state not return to wasting water. In 2018, the state passed a series of new laws to make water conservation the way of life in California, requiring every urban water agency comply with a water budget for indoor and outdoor uses and the state help small water suppliers and rural communities with drought planning.


Making water conservation a way of life is easier said than done. Building on decades of research on the potential for water conservation and efficiency in California, the Pacific Institute, along with its partners, worked closely with state agencies to set clear and effective guidelines for these laws based on sound science. They also worked with local businesses to invest in sustainable landscape practices that save water, improve water quality, and increase community resilience while filling key data gaps on commercial and industrial water efficiency opportunities.

What’s Next

In 2020, the Pacific Institute is launching a two-year research and communications initiative to address emerging questions about water conservation and efficiency, including impacts on affordability, future drought response, and wastewater systems. The Pacific Institute plans to address these issues to help advance water resilience while also meeting desired economic, environmental, and equity outcomes.