The Foundation concluded operations on December 31, 2020. Learn more.



Water resources are essential to economic prosperity, ecological health, and community well-being in California.

California’s water system supports over 30 million people, the world’s ninth largest economy, diverse natural ecosystems, and one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Yet this critical system is under significant stress and is struggling to adapt to the challenges of climate change and population growth. Californians face increased water scarcity, declining water quality, greater flood risk, and the deteriorating health of ecosystems.

Across the state, new approaches to water management are emerging that jointly address surface water, groundwater, water quality, and flood protection challenges for the benefit of the state’s communities and environment. Still, solutions are not always implemented at the necessary scale or pace due to institutional fragmentation, technical complexity, or lack of political will.

The Foundation’s strategies focus on informing, demonstrating, and replicating water management solutions to meet the current and future water needs of California’s communities, farms, and ecosystems.

Learn more: Strategy Snapshot (PDF)   |   Staff Reflections (PDF)


Building Knowledge and Information Systems

The Foundation invests in accelerating the creation and transfer of knowledge among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to ensure that science informs water management decisions.

Through its grantees, the Foundation is:

  • Mobilizing leading researchers to produce relevant and high-quality research, synthesizing existing knowledge, and effectively engaging with policy audiences.
  • Elevating data as a priority for water management, establishing data norms, and advancing information systems that promote a comprehensive understanding of water.

Promoting Integrated Solutions

The Foundation invests in pursuing policies that promote integrated water management, and in demonstrating solutions at a regional scale.

Through its grantees, the Foundation is:

  • Demonstrating the effectiveness of integrated water management solutions that promote the holistic management of water alongside land and other related resources.
  • Pursuing state policies and incentives that move water management toward sustainable solutions.
  • Strengthening the water field through investments in leadership development, organizational capacity, and strategic partnerships and collaborations. Two examples are the Water Solutions Network (view story) and the Community Foundation Water Initiative (access PDF).

Download snapshots:
Community Foundation Water Initiative (PDF)


Bringing Innovation to Water Management

The Water Foundation recognizes water in the West as a common resource that requires shared solutions and that new ideas, broad collaboration, and tailored approaches will help resolve water challenges across the region.

The Foundation pools and aligns philanthropic funding to support groups that are finding smart ways to improve water management. They use their knowledge and experience to identify opportunities where foundation investments can drive change. Additionally, they build bridges among diverse leaders and catalyze powerful partnerships leading to pragmatic, durable, and balanced solutions. Read the Water Foundation’s blog.

Elevating Water Management Research

The PPIC Water Policy Center (The Center) builds on the successful model of strategic research and engagement that defines all of PPIC’s work. It connects nonpartisan, objective research to real world water management debates, with the goal of putting California water policy on a sustainable and constructive path. The Center spurs innovative water management solutions that support a healthy economy, environment, and society – now and for future generations.

The Center focuses on three critical, interrelated water management challenges facing California in the 21st century:  Ensuring clean and reliable water supplies, building healthy and resilient ecosystems, and preparing for droughts and floods. It includes in-house experts as well as a broad research network – a dynamic group of top researchers with expertise in a range of disciplines, including biology, economics, engineering, geology, and law. Watch a video about the Center’s work.

Building Water Knowledge

Dedicated to the multidisciplinary study of water resources, the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis conducts scientific research to inform water management policies in California and elsewhere.

The Center works to increase the pool of talented and engaged water experts, provide insightful analysis of water problems, and spread these insights widely. This work aims to improve understanding of complex water problems and provide a more scientific basis for solving them.

Watch a video on the Center’s work.


Advancing Groundwater Management

Groundwater is a critical resource. As many as 30 million Californians rely on groundwater for their drinking water, and in dry years, groundwater accounts for 60% of the state’s total water supply. Managed correctly, groundwater provides a dependable, long-term water supply and buffers against drought. However, inconsistent management and the severity of the current drought have jeopardized groundwater resources.

Water in the West at Stanford University works with researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to apply groundwater science to on-the-ground management. Through a Groundwater Technology Consortium, researchers are exploring new technologies that provide more robust data about groundwater aquifers in a cost-effective way. By engaging directly with groundwater managers and policymakers, the Stanford team is advancing these emerging technologies, deepening scientific understanding of the issue, and promoting a research-based approach to groundwater management. Watch a video here.

Developing Fresh Water Solutions

The Nature Conservancy is a global organization working to preserve the lands and water upon which all life depends. In California, the Conservancy is developing science-driven solutions to the state’s fresh water crisis that enable people and nature to thrive. As part of the largest applied conservation science team in the world, Conservancy staff draws on science, technology, and a network of demonstration projects to achieve more sustainable and effective statewide water policies and management practices, from securing water flows for nature to replenishing groundwater aquifers. Learn more about the Conservancy’s fresh water projects in California.