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🤖 "California's Drive for Water Data"


Photo by Vital Sinkevich / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Tara Moran | President & CEO | California Water Data Consortium
Category: 🤖 Technology

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:52] “From 2012 to 2016 California had a severe and historic drought that required state and local agencies to make decisions about where water use needed to be cut back. And while they were grappling with those decisions, it really became clear that both state and local agencies did not have the information that they needed to make well informed decisions about where those cutbacks or conservation measures should take place, and how successful they were when they actually happened. And so the real challenge is, or the real issue is that we live in a state with a thriving technology sector that is home to the fifth largest economy in the world. And yet we lack basic information about how much water is being used for what purpose and at what time. And even when agencies report those data to the state. They're often data quality issues that can render them either unusable or really hinder their long term usability or when they are reported, it's often once or twice a year. And so they certainly aren't available to make these sort of real time critical management decisions […] when […] species or communities are really at risk.”

[4:11] “Additionally, […] many of the data that are reported to the state are reported in slightly different formats at different time frames using slightly different nomenclatures, which can make integrating them across regions very challenging. So it's hard to get these broader perspectives that are actually required when we think about trying to make sort of regional water management decisions or statewide mock water management decisions. And all of this ultimately impedes our ability to manage creatively across geographies, to manage resiliently, particularly during these dry periods.”

[6:42] “In California is […] there's a whole host of different jurisdictions, so there's a lot of fragmentation that occurs in water management […] and a lot of different geographies as well. And each water management system is unique. They have their own systems, they have their own way of managing, they have their own local context that really needs to be part of the equation, as we think about all of this. And again, it leads back to why having data and information to really manage across that spectrum is so important.”

[7:31] “In 2016 […] it became clear that California really needed to do something to address the many data challenges […] and to make data more accessible at local, regional and statewide scales to better support water management decisions, and to make those data more accessible to the public and to the many sectors involved in water management decisions here in California. So in 2016, the California legislature passed what's called the Open and Transparent Water Data Act. And it's one of the most robust pieces of legislation of water data legislation in the US and globally. And what it does is it requires state agencies to make existing water and ecological publicly available, make those datasets publicly available on open data platforms, and to update them quarterly. Similarly, it requires water and ecological data sets related to California water supply that are held by federal agencies available on these platforms, and then to update them quarterly.”

[8:41] “However, as they were drafting this legislation, there was a realization that the state could meet the legislative mandates […] without actually meeting sort of the broader legislative goals of making sure that the data were actually useful. They were sufficient to make well informed water management decisions and that they were broadly accessible. And so the legislators understood that achieving these goals would actually require ongoing collaboration and dialogue, both between state agencies and non-state agency representatives, including […] water agencies, tribes, academia, the private sector, NGOs, and others. […] And so the bill ended up including a clause that allowed the Department of Water Resources to partner with a nonprofit organization to create, operate and maintain the data platform. And that really is the genesis of the California Water Data Consortium. And so we were formed as that nonprofit organization to bring together state and non state agency representatives to jointly make decisions about how water data in California should, should be governed.”

[12:04] “Right now, we have four pilot projects that we're advancing. […] So the first is a partnership with the Department of Conservation to identify critical gaps in LIDAR coverage in California. And for those who may not be familiar, LIDAR is a remote sensing method that provides high resolution information about the Earth's surface. And if you image through time, you can get a sense of how things are changing. And it has a whole host of applications from estimating the amount of runoff from seasonal snowpack, to understanding changes in infrastructure to identifying areas at risk of landslide after wildfire. So it's an amazing set of data that you can use to do a whole host of things to understand a whole host of different applications once you've collected it, but it's very expensive to collect. And so the goal with this pilot project is to bring together federal, state, and local agencies in a collaborative effort to pool resources and consider data sharing models to support ongoing statewide LIDAR data collection.”

[13:22] “[Another] pilot project focuses on groundwater data. And there's really two components to this work. The first is working with the Department of Water Resources and the State Board to collect or to […] co-develop groundwater data, groundwater elevation data, best management practices that state and local agencies could adopt. And once developed these data standards would facilitate data sharing across local agencies, and state agencies, as well as between regulatory programs, which will ultimately save […] both state and local agencies a lot of time and money as they report and integrate these data through time. The second component to that one is a collaboration between the Consortium and the Environmental Defense Fund, who have been working with this working with a technology firm and a local water management agency to develop grout or a water accounting and trading platform. And so the goal is to take that existing open source platform, expand and scale it to be available as a voluntary platform for water managers to use to easily sort of track water use across their basin and make decisions about how they can sort of achieve long term sustainability.”

[26:03] “I think [in] California and really […] across the US, we have a lot of work to do in terms of really understanding and valuing water as the essential resource that it is. But at the same time, I am so encouraged by the interest, the willingness and the value that people really see. And there has been just a dramatic shift in the past five years and how we think about and value water and data necessary to manage it sustainably. So […] my long term vision for the Consortium would be […] a resilient and equitable water future […] where all Californians were trusted, open and accessible water and ecological, ecological data are used to inform all water management decisions across the state.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 29 min | 🗓️ 04/26/2021
✅ Time saved: 27 min

Additional Links:
2020 Year in Review – California Water Data Consortium