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

Invest in water data infrastructure

State and local agencies should continue to prioritize and invest in water data infrastructure to modernize California’s data systems.

At the peak of historic drought, the California legislature recognized the need for high-quality, accessible water and ecological data that could be integrated statewide to support state and local-level water operations decisions.[1] To resolve this need, The Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755, Dodd) was passed in 2016 requiring California state agencies to create, operate, and maintain a statewide integrated water data platform to support sustainable water resource management.[2]

Since the passage of AB 1755, California has made significant progress in developing publicly available, open-access data portals. The California Natural Resource Agency Portal currently publishes over 19,751 natural resource datasets which have been accessed by more than 73,934 unique users.[3],[4],[5] The most searched term amongst all natural resource datasets is “groundwater”, and water datasets alone are viewed roughly 10,000 times per month.[6],[7] There is clearly a demand for water data in California.

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

California has already laid the groundwork needed to transition to a more modern data system. However, despite significant progress, challenges remain. Implementation of existing state and local efforts have been hindered by burdensome legal and regulatory requirements, insufficient funding, planning requirements, and a lack of critical data.[8] AB 1755 implementation is helping with these challenges, but is primarily focused on the publication stage of the data life cycle; whereas the majority of California water data quality and usability issues occur pre-publication. Data platforms will not be able to publish reusable data if challenges related to planning, collection, and quality assurance are not addressed.

Putting Data to Work