Climate change creates critical challenges for California water resources management. The vulnerability of the water sector to climate change stems from a modified hydrology that affects the frequency, magnitude, and duration of extreme events, which, in turn, affect water quantity, quality, and infrastructure. Warmer temperatures drive the snow line higher and reduce snowpack, resulting in less water storage. Intense rainfall events will continue to affect the state, possibly leading to more frequent and/or more extensive flooding. The acceleration of sea level rise will produce higher storm surges during coastal storms.
Droughts are likely to become more frequent and persistent during this century. Because California contains multiple climate zones, each region of the state will experience a combination of impacts from climate change
unique to that area. While significant uncertainties still remain for local precipitation and temperature changes, projections at the regional and statewide levels are already available.
Water supply managers in California have multiple tools and institutional capabilities to limit vulnerability to changing conditions, which can also serve as response mechanisms to a wide range of climate changes.
This brochure summarizes the observations, projections, and challenges that climate change poses for water resources management in California, and highlights climate change content developed for the California Water Plan Update 2013.