Water has long been a contentious issue in California. Given California’s intricate—and sometimes confusing—system of appropriating water, it is entirely acceptable and necessary to ask who, what, when, where, why and how this precious resource is managed up and down the state.

Asking such questions is timely as well. At this very moment, counties across the Golden State are in the midst of important deliberations and debates over water usage. On the Central Coast, grape growers and residents are fighting it out over the region’s limited water supply. Meanwhile, the desert County of Imperial is attracting the attention of state legislators due to the tumultuous legal proceedings over the Salton Sea and its rapidly receding shores. And overall, water is just plain drying up across the state.

While water manage remains an issue for public agencies across the state, not all have struggled in their efforts. According to the EPA report below, local agencies in California have responded in a variety of positive ways. In the Sacramento region, Roseville has worked to provide “house calls” to residents who wish to have consultants review their water usage. These “Water-Wise House Call” specialists can then provide recommendations to conserve water.

Santa Rosa has implemented a number of measures and offered substantial rebates to switch to practices that conserve water. The City will even pay residents to landscape their yards in such a way as to minimize water-use. Their efforts have saved almost 1.5 billion gallons of water annually.

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In June of 2010, the EPA published the following overview of California, its water supplies and resource management strategies. Much of the above information was taken from the following brief. It serves as a great introduction to the Golden State’s relationship with water and provides context for much of the current debate over water in California.

How does California stack up against the rest of the nation? Read all 16 of the selected EPA WaterSense state reports here.