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The New California Water Atlas


Because of California’s archaic records system, information vital to meaningful public participation
in water management decisions—who owns the water, where it comes from, how it’s used, and how
much it costs—have been hard to uncover and even harder to decipher. Special interests, hand-in hand with politicians and water agencies, preserve the status quo—moving scarce water around the state beyond public scrutiny and without public compensation. Water for fish and wildlife is an
afterthought, at best. Although water experts and citizen activists have long tried to level the playing
field, the water barons and corporate farmers continue to appropriate the public’s water and thwart
sustainable water policies.


Using official records, the Resource Renewal Institute has developed the New California Water
Atlas, ca.statewater.org, to shed light on the state’s most beleaguered natural resource. The New
California Water Atlas is a free, online, searchable database offering real time information about the
state of the state’s water.

The Atlas can be used to discover where groundwater supplies are healthy, where are they
threatened, and critical areas for action. It reveals who in California is irrigating crops, providing
stock water for animals, using water for mining, sending water to cities, among other uses. In so
doing, it illuminates how water rights influence California’s politics.

The New California Water Rights Atlas:

  • Presents data on water in user-friendly formats
  • Integrates 500,000 state records on water ownership and use
  • Provides the first-ever map of the condition of California’s rivers and groundwater supplies
  • Enables users to look at the water table levels over time in specific locations
  • Reveals the forces shaping state water policy

Next Steps

Water policies that address climate change, agriculture, wildlife, and a growing population will
shape California’s future. The New California Water Atlas is an important tool for journalists, educators, policymakers, resource managers, and the public.

It offers the potential to drive policies that serve the public interest instead of the special interests. Special thanks to the Antonioli family and the Robert Antonioli bequest for preliminary funding for
this project.


Binders Full of Well Logs

“California State Well Numbering (SWN) system wells are assigned a unique identifier without using a computer.” – Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District Manager

This video underscores how backwards some of our state agencies are with their internal workflows. Putting aside making data available to the public, the perpetuation of inefficient and outdated workflows circa 1970 is borderline scandelous in today’s digital era.

It is understandable that decades of historical records are expensive to digitize, but there is little excuse when new data is compiled and archived in such ways. We can do better.

In our effort to build a digital public work for water in California, we are sharing open government methodologies, and civic technologies with all agencies we come into contact with. We do this from a place of love and understanding. We are fully aware of strained budgets and staffing, and are here to lend a hand.

Lets make California awesome!

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