National Forest Foundation

California Water Strategy

Working together for long-term solutions for California's water

California Water Strategy

​Four years into the worst drought on record with no relief in sight, California is on the verge a full-blown water crisis. With the wishful but wrong thought that drought is a short-term problem with short-term solutions, most discussion have focused on managing demand and balancing competing needs among various groups. Sparse attention has been paid to the long-term outlook for California’s water supply.

Any discussion of addressing California’s long-term water issues must necessarily include the state’s federally managed forests. National Forests play a disproportionately large role in California, supplying 65 percent of the state’s water and covering 17 percent of the state’s total. But drought, wildfires, climate change, and neglect are affecting their ability to supply good, clean water. Prime sources of much of California’s water have been critically impacted by fires in Sierra Nevadan forests, with an increasing incidence of record-setting mega fires such as the 257,314-acre Rim Fire in 2013, and the 97,717-acre King Fire in 2014.

California’s headwaters can be and must be protected with sound forest management, but first we need to build acute awareness of the forests’ vital function and the significant investments needed to maintain it. As the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is uniquely positioned to aggregate resources, develop an effective communications campaign, and drive the dialogue.

Headwaters Summit

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 | Oakland, CA

During a tempestuous rainstorm, the NFF led the California Headwaters Summit in downtown Oakland on January 19, 2016. Leaders from state and federal agencies, nonprofits and the private sector attended the Summit. Discussions focused on:

  • creating actionable strategies to accelerate restoration of California’s National Forest headwaters and
  • expanding the network of private sector leaders that recognize the importance of California’s National Forest Headwaters.

Key results from the meeting include:

  • create a pilot project complementing existing Forest Service headwaters priorities regions;
  • tackle regulatory permitting at the scale needed to enable landscape scale projects over multiple years; and
  • work together to ensure better carbon offset and water-based financial incentives to fund projects from the public and private sectors.

A subsequent meeting to further refine action items is likely.


You Can Help


We are working throughout California to ensure our National Forests remain healthy for fresh water.

Support our efforts now