California recently implemented a statewide effort to learn how best to outreach to and involve ‘disadvantaged communities’ in integrated regional water management (IRWM) planning. Using the case of the Kings Basin Water Authority's Disadvantaged Community Pilot Project Study, we argue that social learning is a key mechanism through which the procedural and distributive justice goals of environmental justice are integrated into water resources planning. Using interviews, focus groups and survey results, we find that social learning has short- and medium-term effects of increasing access to information, broadening stakeholder participation and developing initial foundations for structural changes to water governance. However, long-term change in the structure of IRWM institutions is, at best, in its early phases. Social learning provides a basis for changing water governance and management outcomes in ways that promote representation of traditionally marginalized groups and the water challenges they face.

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