Shoreline of the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, CA

Putting Data To Work

Why investing in water and ecological data in California matters

“We can no longer operate such a sophisticated and a complicated system in a time of scarcity without significantly better data information.”
— State Agency Employee

Policy BriefTechnical ReportExecutive Summary

The California Water Data Consortium interviewed water leaders from a variety of sectors across the state to better understand the data challenges facing water planners, managers, nongovernmental organizations, and Tribal governments. These leaders articulated how California’s existing water data infrastructure issues are impacting their ability to make informed water management decisions and plan for long-term supply reliability.


Aerial photo of Juvenile Salmonid Collection System at Dekkas Rock at Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California

Invest in water data infrastructure

Better water data helps communities understand, monitor, and address water issues

“Having good data really helps us to dig down and think about how to be effective about the water we are using.”
—Tribal Representative

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Members of The Western States Water Council gathered at Goat Rock Beach at Jenner, California

Continue empowering cross agency / organization collaboration

The need for improved collaboration is felt across sectors

“There are climate impacts that are happening… The old ways can’t work anymore, so how do we get people to start talking more collaboratively?”

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Aerial photo of drought conditions at Enterprise Bridge on Lake Oroville in Butte County

Create open data standards and protocols

Inconsistent data makes data comparisons and broader analysis difficult and time consuming

“Everyone’s using a different metric for how they’re monitoring demand and that’s difficult on us; it’s a huge hurdle.”
—NGO Employee

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Photo of the station house for the North Honcut Stream Gage on Honcut Creek in Butte County, California

Automate collection and reporting of critical water datasets

Water management is stymied by inadequate data, imperiling ecosystems, communities, and the economy

“A lack of water rights enforcement and lack of data on flow in some of these very remote areas makes it really difficult to establish targets to enforce for species protection.”
—NGO Employee

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Five volunteers planting native high marsh grasses during the Volunteer Planting Day

Expand public awareness and accessibility of water data

Better water data will promote credible communication and improve policymaking

“Water isn’t necessarily the top [public] policy issue. Showing how it connects to other areas that are front and center for elected bodies, the state, and the general public helps to get more resources to develop a better water system to support infrastructure and decision making.”
—Water Utility Employee

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A sign warning about the potability of recycled water used in irrigation

Streamline procurement to enable innovation

Insufficient resources to collect water data can perpetuate societal inequities

“Some of these vulnerable communities don’t have the resources to provide their own data and information so it gets left out or it’s dominated by other interests.”
— State Agency Employee

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