Project applicants and agencies alike should think carefully about developing robust analyses that demonstrate the adequacy of water supply.

By Marc T. Campopiano, Diego Enrique Flores, and Lucas I. Quass

Mark Twain is often credited with saying, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” This remains true in California, where drought conditions, climate change, and population growth throughout the state’s history have made water an increasingly valuable and regulated resource. The legal landscape involves complex questions related to water quality, water sustainability, and competing claims to water rights. One notable area of controversy involves the adequacy of water supply for new development projects.

Two decades ago, in 2001, the state legislature enacted Senate Bill (SB) 610 and SB 221 to promote sustainable long-term water planning. Collectively, SB 610 and SB 221 require public agencies to determine whether adequate water supply exists for certain large development projects as part of the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by, in part, requesting water supply assessments (WSAs) from water service providers.