15 Dec IRWM? What’s That?
As acronyms go, IRWM doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the benefits of Integrated Regional Water Management have already been proven in the decade it has existed. Created by state legislation in 2002, IRWM is practiced in 48 different regions across the state, taking many different forms depending on local needs and resources. Its main attraction initially was that it served as a vehicle for distributing state water bond funding, with a large role for local input and priority setting over how those monies were to be used. Over time, however, the integration function has taken on more and more importance, as disparate programs and jurisdictions find better ways to combine their planning and implementation of water-related functions for greater impact. These functions include water supply, water quality, waste water treatment, flood control, habitat and recreation.
In the San Diego region, Katz & Associates is working with RMC Water and Environment to help the local program update its 2007 IRWM Plan. The updated plan will incorporate improved structures and processes for promoting integration and also ensure the program conforms to new policies and requirements emanating from the California Department of Water Resources, which oversees IRWM planning and grant funding at the state level. K&A is supporting a robust stakeholder outreach and involvement effort to ensure the IRWM program is evolving to include the greatest breadth of groups and organizations that affect or are impacted by water management in the region. These groups and organizations include water retailers; flood control, stormwater and wastewater management agencies; land use planners; watershed, environmental and conservation groups; regulators; the military; tribes; and small rural water systems.
So far, dozens of workshops and working group meetings have been held to discuss a wide variety of program elements that are being updated in the IRWM plan slated for completion in 2013, including governance, regulations, priorities and financial aspects of IRWM planning. Key to this effort has been soliciting the participation of groups and perspectives that have not been as actively involved in the past, but are important to take “integrated” regional water management to the next level. This effort has been rewarded by a large number of new stakeholders taking part in IRWM planning for the first time, enriching the discussions and revealing many more opportunities for partnering, coordination and collaboration.