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CA Water Data Consortium Q&A with Board Chair Mike Myatt

February 17th, 2021

Mike MyattFormed to support implementation of the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755, Dodd), the California Water Data Consortium facilitates ongoing partnerships across public, private, and nonprofit sectors to ensure resilient water management in California through improved access to high quality interoperable water and ecological data.

Over the next year, we’ll be sitting down (virtually) with members of our team to hear their perspectives on these emerging and deepening partnerships. To start, we’re speaking with our board chair, Mike Myatt, who is also a program officer at the Water Foundation.

CA Water Data Consortium (CWDC): Thanks for chatting with us, Mike. For those learning about our new nonprofit, what is the Consortium?

Mike Myatt (MM): The California Water Data Consortium is an independent, nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration and engagement between state agencies, water agencies, industry, NGOs, tribes, academia and many others to improve water management in California through more accessible and useable water and ecological data.

We’ve created a governance structure that intentionally brings together leaders in state government with local leaders charged with collecting and reporting data, as well as data users including researchers, NGOs, and entrepreneurs. We work collaboratively to identify opportunities to increase access to high quality, comprehensive and interoperable data and form teams to implement projects that improve water data management decision-making.

CWDC: Why is open water data so important to California? 

MM: Let’s break it down. First, why open data? Open data is data that everyone can access, use, and share. Open data creates transparency, which improves the integrity of data through crowdsourced peer review. This can improve performance and identify efficiencies in how our systems operate. It also encourages research and fosters innovation, by increasing the rate of discovery for scientists and entrepreneurs alike. It democratizes information so that everyone can access the same data for free. It can also reduce the potential loss of data that can happen when administrations change and priorities shift, or agencies move from one data system to another, leaving “old” data behind.

Next, why water data? Water is critically important for California’s economy, life, and resources. Continuing to collect, report, and house water data in fragmented, antiquated, and hard to access databases reduces the usefulness of the data and wastes precious resources that we collectively spend to gather all of this information that is not used to its full potential. This old-fashioned approach also contributes to inequitable power structures in who has access to information.

Finally, why California? Our state is home to some of the world’s leaders in innovative technology. We lead the nation in innovation spending. We house incredible untapped talent in our own backyard, while continuing to use decades old approaches for our water data management. We need to bring together the incredible expertise of our data scientists and technology developers, with the expertise in our water sector, including water managers and on-the-ground community experts.

CWDC: The Consortium launched just last year. What has you most excited about our work in 2021? 

MM: The people. I’m really excited about all the individuals involved directly in the Consortium, including our CEO and staff, our steering committee, our working groups, and our board of directors. Collectively, the Consortium includes state government leaders, private sector experts, agricultural and urban water managers, business community leaders, data scientists, and more. However, the Consortium’s success will also require external partners to bring ideas, innovations, and diverse expertise, and I am equally excited about all of the individuals who continue to engage with the Consortium to advance our work, including academic partners, NGO representatives, data scientists, developers, and others. This collective expertise and collaborative spirit are what has me most excited. I hope we can continue to foster this creative environment for experimentation and ingenuity. I expect over the next year we’ll show some tangible progress through implementing several projects that will show the power of open water data across different sectors. We work hard, but we have fun, and all are welcome to join!

CWDC: Thanks! As Mike says, we welcome all to join this important work. To hear our latest news and learn more about upcoming events, sign up for our regular email updates