What we are making
The New California Water Atlas(NCWA) tells the story of California water, makes data about water resources more open and transparent, and provides tools to activate effective citizen participants. NCWA which is freely available on the internet re-imagines the role of an Atlas in today’s realtime web and big data era. We are developing a “smart” Atlas to provide users with an intuitive and smoothly functioning interface for understanding the state’s water system, and which serves as a platform for sharing stories and data.
Making water understandable
Similar to the original California Water Atlas (1979), this project endeavors to make a complex system understandable, and takes a comprehensive perspective on how water is governed and distributed across the state. NCWA explores innovative ways to show water resources both geographically and through interactive data visualizations. Technology and the internet allow for a once static tool, such as a printed atlas, to become a living, breathing entity. Alongside historical data, a digital Atlas with continuous realtime data remains current and does not fall out of date.
Openness & Transparency
Currently, data about this complex system is woefully unorganized, inconsistent, and difficult to navigate. Information is scattered across many sites, and users are confronted by multiple data formats with few options for automated retrieval. While the end goal is a comprehensive platform, a necessary first step will be to establish standards for structured data.
Firmly steeped in the ethos of open data and the open government movements respectively, NCWA engages government agencies to adopt better data standards and sharing best practices. In lieu of this data being ready, we will convert data hosted by state, federal and regional agencies to machine-ready formats, and lead by example with how our Atlas makes the data available.
Building upon the lessons of the social web, NCWA is creating a destination for citizens to communicate about water issues and share data resources. Harnessing the power of citizen science and crowd-sourcing, we are creating an integrated platform that will allow for users to upload their stories, submit, flag, and otherwise dispute erroneous or missing data. We want ca.statewater.org to be a toolkit and virtual town-hall that citizens can leverage to inform themselves, their communities, and their lawmakers.