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

Create open data standards and protocols

State agencies, in partnership with non-state partners, should create and facilitate the adoption of open data standards and protocols

Simply collecting data is not enough; data needs to be of sufficient quality to foster trust and support decision-making as articulated in The Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755, Dodd) .[1] Poor data quality is a pervasive issue in water data across the state. Interviewees identified two main components impacting data quality in California: 1) insufficient data quality assurance and quality control practices and 2) inconsistent data formats and data collection practices.

“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

Data standards and protocols are necessary to facilitate data sharing and reuse. Open data standards are the foundation for modernizing California’s water data ecosystem.[2] They are agreed upon formats, definitions, and structures for data management necessary for ensuring that data, and associated metadata, are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.[3] Additionally, open data standards reduce the cost of collecting and sharing data. To facilitate adoption, data standards and protocols should be published and readily accessible.

“DWR and the State Board does have a lot of data, but sometimes it’s inconsistent and sometimes it is very hard to access.” —Academic

The state has developed some initial water data protocols,[4] which serve as the basis for data shared through California’s federated, open-access platforms developed for AB 1755. Continuing to expand these data protocols will be important for long-term data reuse, interoperability, and accessibility with other data systems. Specifically, the following key steps are recommended to continue moving California towards a modern data system:

  1. Adopt FAIR data principals: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable[5]
  2. Have state agencies adopt a policy that all water data is open unless there are specific reasons that it cannot be
  3. Have all state agency programs commit to maintaining data stewards
  4. Build data infrastructure and tools (e.g., identifier registry, metadata creation helpers, water domain controlled vocabularies) to improve data interoperability
  5. Ensure that state agencies commit to researching existing and available datasets and standards before developing new datasets.

Putting Data to Work