computer rendering of a concrete creek channel that has been converted to public space, with a bike path, trees and people sitting on concrete steps in the creek bed,

Resilient City South proposal for Orange Memorial Park's Colma Creek in San Mateo County. Rendering courtesy Hassell+

Watershed Moments

Case studies in water management for California's changing climate

Policy Brief

California’s severe drought — following close on the heels of the 2012–2017 drought — is a call for action. Climate scientists predict that the state 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. How can the Bay Area better manage the limited water it has?

Solutions for adapting to a changing climate exist — but they require managing water differently. SPUR, Greenbelt Alliance and Pacific Institute teamed up to highlight Northern California leaders who are pioneering more sustainable approaches, such as using water more efficiently, protecting groundwater supplies, recycling water and reusing stormwater. Our six case studies show how the Bay Area can shift from an old system that relied almost entirely on importing Sierra snowmelt to a new focus on more local and sustainable water supplies.

These case studies are a follow-up to SPUR and Pacific Institute’s report Water for a Growing Bay Area: How the region can grow without increasing water demand.


Scaling Up Centralized Water Recycling | Valley Water District in Santa Clara County

Read Case Study 1


Capturing Stormwater to Diversify Water Supplies | Orange Memorial Park in San Mateo County

Read Case Study 2


Water-Wise Development on a Corporate Campus | Google’s Bay View Campus in Santa Clara County

Read Case Study 3


Protecting Groundwater Through Open Space Conservation | Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County

Read Case Study 4


Water Offsets as a Strategy to Grow in a Water-Scarce Environment | Soquel Creek Water District in Santa Cruz County

Read Case Study 5


Water Efficiency and Reuse in Affordable Housing | Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation

Read Case Study 6