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:
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.