Water for a Growing Bay Area

How the region can grow without increasing water demand

SPUR Report
report cover

The San Francisco Bay Area is projected to add 2 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 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 — a collaboration between SPUR and Pacific Institute — shows that the Bay Area can add 2.1 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. The report lays out 18 recommendations for how policymakers 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.