The New California Water Atlas

Making water understandable in California

Chacha Sikes

We presented the New California Water Atlas at the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility to a group about about 30 mappers.

We talked about using open data and open government strategies to improve citizen’s understanding of our natural resources. Was a great group of people and they asked hard questions about water pricing and obfuscated data.

Afterwards, we spoke with Kevin Koy about Cal-Adapt and discussed water API's for California water datasets. Really exciting stuff - especially the idea that we might be able to access future temperature projection data and the like. In the next few months should start to have in our hands more data that we can work with.`

We were invited to present a project at the TechRaking #3: Mining the News conference at the GooglePlex on August 8, 2013, organized by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

We have been working on making it easier to work with groundwater data this summer. We have been working on aquifer boundaries, aquifer metadata, and well level data. We knew that it would be important to have this basic information in order for journalists to be able to report on groundwater more effectively. One issue that is very relevant in California are the various types of ways in which oil and gas are captured in proximity to groundwater.

Many journalists from many news organizations attended our group. We brainstormed sets of data that are necessary to report on fracking, and designed a document that can be passed around among those interested to organize and collect the data necessary to report effectively on this important issue.

Check out the document here. This is a google doc that is currently in the process of being passed around to various journalists. It is a very simple project, but could help with getting information about fracking out there. The document explains the rest of what you would need to know and how you can help.
FrackTracker: Fracking Data Document

FrackTracker presentation

Map of Fracking wells with Vulnerable Aquifers


Who: Folks in the Bay Area and beyond.

What: Help us design a public-friendly map of groundwater in California - for Californians.

When: Event: August 1, 2013 6:30 - 9 p.m.
Where: Stamen Offices 2017 Mission Street, San Francisco.

RSVP: E-mail or tweet @chachasikes to RSVP.

Twitters: #cawater, #groundwater #datenight @maptimesf @stamen @CAWaterAtlas

What we are doing

Join us at @MapTimeSF at @stamen.

This summer we are developing an understandable map of groundwater in the state of California. Answering basic questions such as "Where is groundwater?"" or "How high is the water table?"

We are having the first participatory design work-night to collaboratively consider new design ideas for visualizing groundwater. We have a bunch of samples of data, samples of current maps (governmental and scientific), and we invite you to bring yourself as citizen designer to help us create the map that we want to see about groundwater in our state. We want this to be easy-to-understand, work at an 8th-grade reading/science level, and be able to layer complex information in ways that are not overwhelming.

We will have paper and markers and other design implements. We will photo document our collective work and use these designs to inform the open-source map that we are making. The work we do is very valuable, because we will make it that much easier to tell stories about our groundwater in a comprehensible way, with real-time data.

If you did not know, groundwater is being pumped dramatically during our current drought. It leaves the state prone to land subsidence as well as groundwater depletion as we pump water out faster than it can recharge. The groundwater map is also a basis for visualizing the potential impact of fracking on vulnerable aquifers in the state.

Why we are doing this

Through a radically collaborative process to create a New California Water Atlas, we are working in ways that bring Californians together to solve problems and understand our state better. All of the data we create, all of the software we write goes into a publicly accessible venue (github, dropbox.) We are building community, and blogging about it as we go so that we can innovate our understanding of our state's natural resources.

Supplies we are bringing:

  • post-its

  • scissors

  • translucent paper

  • digital camera

  • markers

  • colored pencils

  • sharpies

  • tape

  • large craft paper

  • sticky dots

Print-outs we plan to have

  • california DEM

  • aquifer map of california

  • aquifers - shapes

  • dwr potentiometric map

  • dwr heat map

  • jagged well reading contour lines - screenshot from QGIS

  • wells in CA (sample)

  • dichotomous key of groundwater

  • hydrograph example from a well (2-3 examples)

  • 2 examples of groundwater PDF documentation -- examples of extra info we have

The California Department of Water Resources has 515 PDFs that give valuable descriptions and 'metadata' about the various groundwater basins across the state.

We converted these PDFs to text files, and want to get them into tabular data format (well, CSV, comma-separated, data).

The files are all in this git repository on Github.

Yesterday, Laci called the DWR to ask them if they had this information in tabular format, and they don't - but people keep calling to ask. We would like to help them help the citizens of California.

If you feel inclined to help clean up this data, please have at it!

We are adding a README that lists the fields.

The project

  1. Write a scraper in the language of your choosing (we prefer nodejs and python, but php and ruby are fine.)
  2. Parse the 515 text files:
  3. Create a CSV data table structure with machine-friendly column names.
  4. Populate the CSV with the data.


  1. Convert also to a JSON document with an ID based on the basin unit ID.

Sign up

Just tweet at us or email us to let us know you want to volunteer to tackle this. You can fork the repo and send us a pull request.

A preview of the data

This is the text of one file. You can see how there is lots of useful information in it. If it were in tabular format, it could more easily be used in interactives that help us visualize and understand groundwater.

Central Coast Hydrologic Region Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
• Groundwater Basin Number: 3-1
• County: Santa Cruz
• Surface Area: 2,500 acres (4 square miles)
Basin Boundaries and Hydrology
The Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin is bounded to the south by Monterey Bay, and to the north by a series of hills that define the contact of Quaternary and Pliocene deposits (Purisima Formation) at or near the Zayante Fault.
The western boundary coincides with the western boundary of the Soquel Creek Water District. The eastern boundary is generally the coastward projection of the drainage divide between the Soquel and Aptos Creek watersheds. In addition to the areas of Quaternary deposits, the eastern limit of the Soquel Creek and Central Water District’s service area may be considered the basin boundary for the purposes of managing and monitoring groundwater resources in the area. Soquel Creek is the major drainage in the Basin. Average annual precipitation is 25 inches along the coast to 29 inches inland.
The adjoining basins include West Santa Cruz Terrace to the west and the Pajaro Valley to the southeast.
Hydrogeologic Information
Water-bearing sediments consist of the Pliocene Purisima Formation, which is overlain by Quaternary terrace deposits, and the Pleistocene Aromas Red Sands Formation. The Purisima and Quaternary terrace deposits have been locally incised by streams filled with Quaternary alluvium (Muir 1980). The Purisima Formation is exposed along Monterey Bay where it is a cliff- forming unit. The Aromas Red Sands Formation extends into the Pajaro Valley Basin.
Water Bearing Formations
The Purisima Formation, of Pliocene geologic age, is a sequence of gray, sometimes described as blue, moderately consolidated, silty to clean, fine to medium sandstone containing siltstone and claystone interbeds (Greene 1977). It has not been explored to basement north of the Soquel Creek Water District’s (SCWD) boundaries but is thought to terminate at or near the Zayante Fault. The granite basement surface, which is uniformly sloping to the southeast, is approximately 450 feet beneath sea level at the western SCWD boundary, and approximately 1,300 feet beneath sea level at approximately Valencia Creek. Farther to the southeast, the Purisima continues to dip at the same rate, but is overlain by predominantly unconfined Aromas Red Sands (SCWD 2003).
Based on the lithologic and geophysical logs developed during the installation of SCWD’s network of production wells and monitoring wells, combined with other water well logs and a few geophysical logs of oil and gas borings in the vicinity, seven distinct subunits of the Purisima Formation have been identified and designated AA, A, B, C, D, E, and F, from deepest to shallowest (LSCE 1984). Groundwater occurs in all the subunits of the Purisima beneath the Soquel-Aptos area. Except in the vicinity of its outcrop
California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118
Central Coast Hydrologic Region Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
at the surface, the Purisima subunits are confined by claystone or siltstone interbeds. In general, fresh water is introduced into the various Purisima subunits through the recharge areas, or outcrop locations, of the subunits and then flows through the respective subunits generally toward Monterey Bay (SCWD 2003).
The Aromas Red Sands Formation is brown to red, poorly consolidated, fine to coarse-grained sandstone containing lenses of silt and clay (LSCE 1996). The formation consists of upper eolian and lower fluvial sand units that are separated by confining layers of interbedded clays and silty clay (RMC 2001). Based on limited lithologic and geophysical logs and other geologic data, the Aromas is underlain by the Purisima Formation throughout the eastern third of the Soquel-Aptos area, although the exact depth of the contact has not been identified. Essentially unconfined throughout the Soquel-Aptos area, the Aromas Red Sands contain fresh water above a wedge-shaped intrusion of seawater which is about 200 feet below sea level at the coastline and slopes away form the coast to nearly 500 feet below sea level in the vicinity of the SCWD Seascape and Altivo supply wells (SCWD 2003).
Restrictive Structures
There are no known restrictive structures in the Soquel Valley Basin. Groundwater flow in the Soquel Valley portion of the confined Purisima Formation is southward, toward and beneath Monterey Bay.
Recharge Areas
Recharge is from deep percolation of rainfall, especially near the upper watersheds of Soquel, Branciforte, and Arana-Rodeo Creeks. Recharge also occurs along the streambeds of Soquel and Aptos Creeks, and other minor creeks.
Groundwater Level Trends
Purisima Formation Coastal water levels have declined in the central portion of the Soquel Creek Water District between about New Brighton Beach and Aptos Creek, notably in the Purisima A subunit where water levels have been near historic low and continuously below sea level during the drought periods of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Groundwater levels have since partially recovered such that they fluctuate seasonally above and below sea level (SCWD 2003).
Aromas Red Sands Groundwater levels throughout SCWD’s Aromas well field area remain above sea level. At one monitoring location at the southern end, coastal water levels were essentially at sea level until recently; presently, levels are about five feet above sea level (SCWD 2003).
Groundwater Storage
Groundwater Storage Capacity. The total storage capacity of the basin has not been determined.
California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118
Central Coast Hydrologic Region Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
Groundwater Budget (Type C)
There are not enough data to estimate a budget for this basin. Within the Soquel-Aptos area, pumpage in the Pursima Formation was estimated by the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Department in October 1999 to be about 6,890 acre-feet, including 2,200 acre-feet for private pumping, about 910 acre-feet for the Central Water District and the City of Santa Cruz, and 3,780 acre-feet for the Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD 2001a). Pumpage from the Aromas Red Sands was estimated by SCWD in December 1998 to be about 6,240 acre-feet, including 3,650 acre-feet for private pumping, 490 acre-feet by Central Water District, and 2,100 acre-feet by SCWD (SCWD 2003).
Groundwater Quality
Characterization. Groundwater in the Purisima formation can generally be classified into two water quality types. In the Purisima A subunit, groundwater is a calcium-bicarbonate water; in the upper Purisima subunits, groundwater is generally a calcium-magnesium bicarbonate water (LSCE 1996). Based on data for the SCWD water supply wells, TDS values in the Purisima formation range from 310 to 850 mg/L, with an average value of 492 mg/L (based on 11 wells; SCWD 2001b). EC values range from 440 to 1,000 μmhos/cm, with an average value of 721 (SCWD 2001b). TDS values in the Aromas Red Sands Formation range from 160 to 290 mg/L, with an average value of 237 mg/L (based on 6 wells; (SCWD 2001b). EC values range from 240 to 425 μmhos/cm, with an average value of 348 μmhos/cm (SCWD 2001b).
Impairments. Declining coastal groundwater levels in the area between New Brighton Beach and Aptos Creek are of concern. The Purisima Formation aquifer produces water with elevated levels of iron and manganese. Most municipal wells are treated for manganese and iron at the wellhead (SCWD 1999a and 2000b).
Water Quality in Public Supply Wells
California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118
Constituent Group1
Inorganics – Primary Radiological
VOCs and SVOCs Inorganics – Secondary
Number of wells sampled2 14
10 10 8 8 14
Number of wells with a concentration above an MCL3 0
0 0 0 0 8
1 A description of each member in the constituent groups and a generalized discussion of the relevance of these groups are included in California’s Groundwater – Bulletin 118 by DWR (2003).
2 Represents distinct number of wells sampled as required under DHS Title 22 program from 1994 through 2000.
3 Each well reported with a concentration above an MCL was confirmed with a second detection above an MCL. This information is intended as an indicator of the types of activities that cause contamination in a given basin. It represents the water quality at the sample location. It does not indicate the water quality delivered to the
Central Coast Hydrologic Region Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
consumer. More detailed drinking water quality information can be obtained from the local water purveyor and its annual Consumer Confidence Report.
California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118
Well Characteristics
Well yields (gal/min)
Total depths (ft) Domestic Municipal/Irrigation
Range: 276 – 1,373
Range: 316 – 930
Active Monitoring Data
Average: 662
(16 SCWD wells)
Average: 607
( 16 SCWD wells)
Number of wells /measurement frequency
10 Monthly
34 Varies
10 Annually 34 Varies
16 Varies
Department of Health Services and cooperators
Parameter Groundwater levels
Mineral, nutrient, & minor element.
Title 22 water quality
Basin Management
Groundwater management: Water agencies
Public Private
References Cited
SCWD Adopted AB 3030 Plan, April 1996
SCWD and Central Water District None
California Department of Health Services (DHS), 2000. California Water Quality Monitoring Database; Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management, Sacramento [on CD-ROM].
California Department of Water Resources, San Joaquin District. Well completion report files.
Green, Gary H. 1977. Geology of the Monterey Bay Region. USGS Open File Report 77-718.
Luhdorff and Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers. 1981. Review and Analysis of Reports Relating to Ground-Water Resources in the Soquel-Aptos Area, Santa Cruz County, California. Soquel Creek Water District.
________ .1984. Groundwater Resources and Management Report, 1983, Soquel Creek Water District.
________. 1985. Groundwater Resources and Management Report, 1984, Soquel Creek Water District.
________. 1996. Soquel Creek Water District and Central Water District, AB3030 Ground- Water Management Plan Soquel-Aptos Area.
Muir, K.S., 1980. Seawater Intrusion and Potential Yield of Aquifers in the Soquel-Aptos Area, Santa Cruz County, California; U.S.G.S. Water-Resources Investigation 80-84, 29 p.
Central Coast Hydrologic Region Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin
Rains, Melton, Carella (RMC). 2001. Pajaro Valley water Management Agency-Revised Basin Management Plan (Draft).
Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD), 1999a. SCWD February 16, 1999 news release.
________. 1999b. SCWD September 2, 1999 news release.
________. 2000a. 1999 Water Quality Report [prepared in compliance of annual public notification requirements].
________. 2000b. Unpublished data provided by District engineers.
Thorup, R.R., 1981. Groundwater Review of the Soquel-Aptos Area, Santa Cruz County,
California; consultant report prepared for the Santa Cruz Builders Exchange, 125p.
________. 2001a. Urban Water Management Plan Update 2000
________. 2001b. Title 22 Water Quality Data.
________. 2003. Comments and Corrections to B-118, Soquel Valley Groundwater Basin write-up.
Additional References
Akers, J.P. and Hickey, J.J. 1966. Geohydrologic Reconnaissance of the Soquel-Aptos area, Santa Cruz County, California: U.S. Geological Survey open-file report, 58 p.
Bader, J.S. 1969. Groundwater Data as of 1967, Central Coastal Subregion, California. USGS Open file report. 16 p.
Bloyd, R.M. 1981. Approximate ground-Water-Level Contours, April 1991, for the Soquel- Aptos Area, Santa Cruz County, California; U.S.G.S. 81-680.
California Department of Water Resources (DWR). 1975. Bulletin No. 63-5. Sea-Water Intrusion in California, Inventory of Coastal Groundwater Basins. 394 p.
California State Water Resources Board (SWRCB). 1953. Bulletin No. 5, Santa Cruz- Monterey Counties Investigation, 230 p.
Hickey, J.J. 1968. Hydrogeologic Study of the Soquel-Aptos area, Santa Cruz County, California; U.S. Geological Survey open file report , 48 p.
Jennings, C.W. and Strand, R.G. (compilers). 1958. Santa Cruz Sheet of Geologic Map of California. California Division of Mines and Geology (CDMG). Scale 1:250,000.
Luhdorff and Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers. 1987. Groundwater Monitoring and Management, Aromas Red Sands, 1987. Soquel Creek Water District.
________. 1990. Groundwater Monitoring and Management 1990 Update, Aromas Red Sands. Soquel Creek Water District.
Muir, K.S. and Johnson, J.J., 1979. Classification of Ground-Water Recharge Potential in Three Parts of Santa Cruz County, California; U.S.G.S. Water-Resources Investigation Open file report 79-1065
Thorup, R.R., 1987. Groundwater Review of the Soquel-Aptos Area, Santa Cruz County, California; consultant report for the Santa Cruz Builders Exchange, 125 p.
Changes made to the basin description will be noted here.
California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118

Visit Interactive Crop Map

Attended HackMeat, hosted at the Stanford dSchool in Silicon Valley. Learned from Susana Crespo, Industry Agriculture Specialist (ESRI) about CropScape.

Found the data in CropScape to be potentially useful for the Atlas -- since one hog farmer I spoke with said that there will be groundwater metering soon, though he knew that there was a particular carrot farm that used quite a lot of groundwater.

So I wanted to make it easier to see where the carrots are grown.

The CropScape data is a raster image of satellite data, where the colors of the crops are guessed using a computer program. Some agricultural ground truth was used to verify the likelihood that this information is correct.

The CropScapa data itself had problems. Mainly that a lot (~90) of the crops had the same colors as other crops. This makes it hard to read the map. Also, the legend is not obviously interactive - which makes it harder to understand the significance of the data.

After some futzing around (since I had never done anything with raster data before), I managed to create a new interactive of crops grown in CA in 2012.

It still needs an interactive color picker, but this will require a lot of coding so that might be a while, in the meantime, there is a color key that you can drag to the area, and see the match. I can also work on the colors to make them a little more distinct.

I plan to write a more indepth review of my steps to create this, but for now these were the basic steps:

  • Download data from Cropscape (with the correct mapping)
  • Import into QGIS, change the color map
  • Re-export GeoTFF with new colors (testing the basic colors)
  • Bring into TileMill
  • Create CartoCSS with exact color stops for the Raster data
  • Export Tiles, upload to Tilemill
  • Create javascript map interactive, host on OpenShift

I've already added this new "crops" layer to the Water Rights interactive. It will also be very helpful to combine with the groundwater as a way of understanding situations where the groundwater is likely to be more pumped.

At the very least, this gives us all a finer understanding of where crops are in our state.

Stay tuned for a more detailed post about how to do this for your state.


Thanks to Sophia Parafina, Nick Doiron, Susana (ESRI), Lefty, John Firebaugh and Dane Springmeyer & Aaron Ogle's walkshed.js for tips and examples of working with raster data on maps.

This summer we are doing the "Summer of Groundwater." We are working to make groundwater more understandable for Californians.

We are looking for volunteer user researchers to help make this project really valuable and easy-to-use for all Californians.

Why is matters

This is especially important because important regulations are in the process of going into place because our groundwater aquifers are being depleted in an unsustainable manner (because we are in a drought, among other reasons.)

Open process

In our efforts to work on this New California Water Atlas, we are working in a public and collaborative manner to design and build this groundwater interactive. In addition to doing it this just because we can and want to and because it's more democratic and empowering, it also serves as an opportunity to teach ways of making complex information understandable to a broad audience.

Volunteer Opportunity

We are looking for user researchers who might be interested in volunteering to help us reach out to our audiences to get critical feedback on early prototypes. Bay Area preferred, maybe meeting up in person or on Skype a few times. Perks include working with the mentorship of the world's leading water researchers in a growing community of people who get things done. We are fundraising, so there are opportunities to get funding, but it's not guaranteed and that could take months.

Our first project

Right now, we are finalizing this "logic tree" of map interactions based on questions that we can answer about the status of groundwater in California. This is based on interviewing water researchers who are very familiar with the problems and what is going on in governments and science. This also pairs with the availability of data — which is kind of crappy and spotty.

Building community of feedback & outreach

We want to get this logic model and future map prototypes in front of Californians (people in cities but also farmers, well owners, water managers, government planners, legislators, community health organizers and others who tell the story of groundwater.)

We want to build a community of Californians who will help give feedback. A challenge is that California is a big state, and we have a number of different audiences. We need help organizing this and reaching out.

Creating a template for others

We should say that one focus we have is on building capacity for others to reuse what we do, to tell custom stories. We are as much making base map layers as putting basic data on the map. We have a limited scope for the summer because we want to make sure that we are creating opportunities to build upon, and not necessarily to impress anyone with a map of the entire groundwater system of California. Also, that is not possible because we do not have the data because no one collects it, since it is not regulated.


Contact us soon!

info at statewater dot org, or comment below. Please send a cover letter and resume or link to LinkedIn. Please let us know why you are interested, what you might like to do, and tell us about your approach. This is our first outreach to get help with the project, so apologies in advance if we are less than graceful. Based on responses we will be able to see how the different interested parties fit together and will let you know sometime before July what the story is. If not this project, or if this isn't a good time, still please reach out, there will be more opportunities, and we would like to stay in touch.

Is your UX/Research organization interested?

If there is a lot of interest, we will help organize something. If there is a community of UX Researchers who want to get involved that would be awesome too. This project is a 'public work.' We can try to help your organization get a grant to support work, too.

The entire New California Water Atlas will need UX support, so there are a lot of possible opportunities. But we are just doing 1 project right now. Gotta start small.

Thanks for reading this. Feel free to pass it on and forward tweets to @CAStateWater or use the #cawater hashtag (which we are squatting.)


Today we chatted again with Carolyn Remick, who directs the Berkeley Water Center, a consortium of UC Berkeley researchers who study water. She knows a lot about the many facets of water data in California.

We told her about how we are now doing this "Summer of Groundwater," and focusing on getting something concrete done, which might help facilitate broader dialogues about groundwater in California. We had learned from Carolyn a few months back about the need for work on groundwater, and that was what inspired us to jump in and do something helpful.

Apparently, we have good timing, because there is a lot of new legislation in California that is coming up that will effect groundwater. We will find out more about what this legislation is and what it means for California.

We also asked her the same questions we asked David Zetland about groundwater:

Groundwater has many facets such as aquifer location, aquifer type, land subsidence, water levels, water quality, sensor location, sensor distribution, drinking quality standards. What is the clearest and most useful narrative tell the general public.

What do we need to know first that will be the most impactful?

Is there water in the aquifers?

Both Carolyn and David suggested that we look into the issue of water quantity in the aquifers. Water quality, if it was drinkable or not, is also important, but you need to know where the water is first, and what it is useful for!

After our call, we broke down the basic questions about groundwater into this 'tree.' We are trying to eliminate complexity so that we can make sure to release something that is useable by the end of the summer. If we do a good job with our first groundwater visualization we, or anyone, can add to it.

Essential Questions about Groundwater

Laci has been researching groundwater & groundwater data for the last few weeks, and blogging about where he found it, so we now have a good idea of where information is.

What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is water that exists in the ground in aquifers. In California this is often a gravelly area in the Earth, that sort of acts as a sponge to hold water. This water can be pumped out, or pumped into, to act as water storage. Since we are in a drought, the surface water is scarce in places, and so farmers have to "turn their pumps on," and pump water from the ground to water the food we eat (40% of which, sidenote, we wind up throwing away, which includes food from restaurants, convention centers, expired food etc that we wind up throwing away for legal reasons.)

What is an aquifer?

An aquifer is the container, a geologic structure, in the ground that has the capacity to hold water. Not all aquifers have water in them. If an aquifer goes dry, it's not always possible to fill it back up again. When an aquifer empties, it can collapse. Such an effect produces large regions that sink or "subside" and thus become newly created flood plains. Aquifers that compact can forever be broken, and therefore never bear water in their newly consolidated state.

Do we have data for where the aquifers are?
Yes. We have data for aquifers. The data we are working with lives on Github, and will be improved throughout the summer.

Community Feedback/User Research opportunity

We can interview people who don't know about groundwater to learn what they want to know, and get these answers to be well written.

Proposed logic map for groundwater interactive

Community Feedback/User Research opportunity

We have this basic outline of questions based on research and interviewing researchers. We can build a paper prototype of this, and put it in front of a few people to see what kinds of questions come up. This should help with framing the map to be more understandable for the average person as well as the average researcher.

1. Where are aquifers?

We can map the aquifers. Here is a a still image of where they are. The point of what we are doing this summer to to make it easier for everyone to map the aquifers, via tutorials in Tilemill, etc.

2. Is there water in the aquifer?

Short answer: Sometimes. This changes. Not all water is drinkable.

  • Yes. If YES:
    • How much water is there? (...and this is the level)
    • Is this level a steady level? (usgs has historic levels) - what is the level?
    • Was it always this way? (time series data)
    • Is this ground water depleting? and if so how fast?
    • Is this ground water being recharged? and if so how?
    • Is this groundwater being recharged in a sustainable / healthy way?
    • If yes - how?
    • How certain are we? (Grades: DWR's Bulletin 118, BUDGET_TYP, uses withdrawal vs. deposit model)
    • A - Groundwater budget understood
    • B - Estimated
    • C - Little known about groundwater budget
    • For later: If yes, Is this water OK? Yes / No / I don’t know / It’s complicated
      We are not going to talk about the water quality yet. That will be added in after we answer basic questions about where the groundwater is.
    • What is the level over time?
  • Kind of: On a Gradient in between YES / NO
    • Sometimes, borderline, Yellow, something’s going wrong here, threatened aquifer
    • Yes but the level wavers. (& Why?)
    • Threatened and almost extinct - can it be saved?
    • This is going extinct and that was always the plan.
    • Are you serious, really? (Yes... link to historical Alaska plans)
    • Does it have to be this way?
    • How could we fix this? - suggestion, share information, help us
  • No. If NO:
    • How? How to fix it?
    • If data & no water (DRY)
    • What is the likelihood of land subsidence?
    • Can be recharged?
    • Already a subsided?
    • How could we fix this? - suggestion, share information, help us
  • We don’t know.
    • Why?
    • No data, no local regulations, no state regulation.
    • Start open data collection to fill in uncertain information
    • How could we fix this? - suggestion, share information, help us

More general questions

  • Why does this matter?
  • Why do we need this information?
  • How do we depend on the groundwater, and how much?
  • Who pumps water out, and why?
  • people that need well water if not connected to municipal supply
  • Where is groundwater running out?
  • Is the groundwater part of a sustainability program?
  • Will groundwater running out effect the price of water?
  • How do changes in groundwater relate to drought?
  • How does groundwater extraction effect surface water?
  • Where is the land going to cave in? (subsidence/sink holes)
  • Is it economical to pump a given aquifer? Paying for pumping vs. value of the water itself. For example, for an agricultural operation with surface rights & access to groundwater basin, there is a threshold to start using their water right again, it might be more economical to use surface water. Some farmers sell water rights and pumping aquifers with no regulations. The economics of this work in their benefit. Sort of a “peak water” situation.
  • Where are aquifers being recharged? For example, injection wells. Paying money to push water back into aquifers, injecting surface water into groundwater basins to store it in a "water in/water out" model. Natural vs. artificial recharge.
  • How fast is the groundwater being depleted?

After we launched the Water Rights Atlas in Sacramento, we had further conversations with Phil Crader from the State Water Resource Control board about how we can improve the accuracy and contextual understanding of the water rights dataset for web developers and water researchers.

To facilitate this, I created this github repository for documenting the dataset, with an extensive README file.

We will work on creating explanations of the various and many fields in the Water Rights Database, which will help with re-presenting that information to the public.

Notes from our Birds of a Feather session. Transcribed (as best as I could) by Chach Sikes

not wanting to do any kinds of mass imports


  • no good datasets of amazon river basin -- idea to trace into OSM -- has big gaps & stuff missing - interested in how modeled in OSM - what kind of metadata? -- how to extract it and use in different ways -- has been cleaning up data & making detailed river networks -- is ism a good way to do it & how? what's best data model

richard bercher

  • geospatial - national resource works - surface water delineate - mercury

  • ottwawa -- first nations -- ontario - - how to engage & use OSM? - disproportionately served - wats to approach on GIS / OSM side

rob brackett

  • new to water - coder sponge - code for america


  • environment engineer hydrology -- science engineering ream - policy restoration -- GIS not coder - learning python - international river basin modeling - laos - used remote sensing - unpaged river basins - figuring out what's available there

  • DEM - & climatic datasets - temp precip - subtract ET - groundtruthing? --remote data set 1km grid for whole world -- local data to verify / estimate - when don't have gauges - and check with existing gauges -- working with local ground on san leandro creek for restoration & access -- shoreline to ridge line trail along san leandro -- do virtual restoration -- how much water needed to restore fish -- ppl want to restore area -- old school managed for flood - can release water -- for doing retrofit chabot dam - - fish & access argument for -- get to unlock the gates -- -- liar -- have a google map of physical and social assets -- restoration of san leandro creek -- merritt college - connect the dots gathering - alameda county flood control, ebmud, city oakland etc. -- (and other similar) -- day lighted stream -needs flows & chaining certain sections -


  • mytopo - montana - in kansas -- printed topi maps - and overlaps - use USGS - 30-40 years old - could maybe use OSM

Eric Thies

  • software dev -- learning about water in maps & modeling aspects - curious

Laci Videmsky

  • New California Water Atlas

  • open cycle map -- doesn't have separate data -- open water map usgs? - -- OSM doesn't have layers -- less interest in streams than cycle - less interest - and less people --

Seth Fitzsimmons

  • kayaker - aspiring cartographer - OSM + NHD - USGS maintains NHD -- has small mailing list - 150 NHD users - water is important feature in OSM - doesn't make sense to duplicate work

  • Seth - trying to understand the tension - how ppl can create cartographic products without having to deal with conflicts -- seth ignores water features in OSM

  • Topo OSM - uses OSM and elevation data & NHD low res data - a sloppy topographic map - aggregation of multiple data sources

Paul Norman

  • pnorman on OSM --- from vancouver - worked with NHD - has mostly completed conversion to NHD file format -- some technical issues of conversion - have to simplifyy NHD - over digitize -- sane method to combine with OSM - (seth -- similar to tiger) -

  • snapshot server -- andy allen - for cycle streets - background layer potlatch 2 -test instance with NHD data last year for a region in NYC - brought nod -- selective imports - uses potlatch's vector layer support -


richard: -gis differentiating between analytics and cargo - nhd is dense for a reason -

gregor: outside us no NHD - amazon basin - only way to get data - is from the public - how to run analytics afterwards -

waterways have directionality - elevation data - streams need centerlines

NHD -- every stream has a centerline - every polygon has a centerline

organizing sprint to map the amazon -- checking the flow direction --

Paul: ism doesn't do well with streams that don't have a flow direction -- ex. a ditch - flow direction is being let in and out for flooding cranberries --

jeanny - there isn't a well defined tagging scheme - ordered list of nodes -- first and a last -- a 2 ways street has an underlying direction - interesting dataset -- stream gages -- how to get info from it -- weather station data --

paul - stream gages hard to find --

richard: environment canada restecituve resource -- NRC --

jeanny -- 100 gages in laos - have that data --

rich: how is water death with in OSM?

paul: i wrote the NHD conversions -- NHD defines slew of different types of ponds - in NHD it is not consistent -- OSM no way to describe all of the different kinds of ponds - if NHD can't do it…

rich: tagging structure?

paul: streams rivers, polygons - lakes - ditches -well defined -- things that are not survey able is a different matter -- water entering sewer system --

some sewer grates noted in OSM? - some times - but not the system

paul: nod 4.00 -- streams type to OSM -- intermission stuff is iffier -- intermittent streams vary from season / place -

seth - stream network of things that are a trickle -- --

gregor: shrove atraler analysis -- - storing catchment on each stream -- to use cartography stage -- only streams with a catchment -

seth: -

worldwide hydrology computing group

Quasi -- united in - advisor Utah state david tarbotten - and ppl from Texas --

hydrology & osm -- hierarchy & nested hierarchies -- well mapped watershed -- no where to put it

Hydro Net - supercomputers -

Daniel Spring -- working with federal data - forest service -- NHD - interesting --

NHD in its infancy - came from the paper quads that were manually digitized -- and they were done manually cartographical of what to show -- NHD mandated to put together national datasets

so they started with this -- -- forest service -- hydrologists from forest -- removing some springs adding them back in -- making minor decisions -- back into NHD

like tiger -- NHD didn't start form scratch -- pulled from existing -- -- remote areas -

new elevation data sets -- not carrying on legacy --

daniel spring -- marin -- GIS - Lidar data for marin county -- but together stream flows -- from berekely went to stanford - - made database for marin county -

aerial imagery -- can't see them -- covered by trees -- need to be large before you can see the water -

5-15 deviations of streams that find new courses -- NHD out of date --

how water mapped outside north america ?

paul -- aerial imagery, GPS, nothing special makes water unmappable

gregor: is a single line?

laci: in NHD it's segments

paul: single stretch -- or entire river -

OSM data format has the notion of connectivity -- if you have two rivers that are connected & have the same name -

brazil - DIVA GIS -- river/tree layers - for the whole world - DEM

jeanny - what is our goal?

how can we talk about this


having documented workflow

improve OSM -- work with hydrant -- two organizations

daniel -- NHD federal ppl -- they are scientists who want good data - -

proposing NHD -- OSM not trustable for accuracy purposes

richard: canada -- data collection - ppl near broke / citizen science -

gregor: outside us -- better data via OSM --

paul: example provincial roads -- NHN in canada -- streams gone for 30 years

Daniel -- how to imports

paul: proposed import of local water set in Florida -- they proposed importing it -- OSM has not moderation import queue -- lots of ways to go wrong with imports -- history proven can get messed up otherwise -

jeanny - how big is the community?

paul: in imports US mailing lists --

tiger was badly done --

daniel -- looking at land ownership --

seth: will you have ongoing dialogue after import? trying to figure out bidirectional import --

"authoritative" has changed --

paul: NHD us dataset -- only US -- 100GB a few years -- and watersheds -- (annoying to deal with)

imports -- no obvious community -- who to do it for forests?

tamara -- user - watershed & MSA data within urban areas -- creeks that don't flow -- locals can get involved - creek restorations - as more active civic activity -- urban watersheds -

seth -- how much surveying of watershed boundaries?

paul: OSM -- no parcels -- administrative areas are them -

jeanny -- is OSM a good avenue for creek restoration ?

paul: i think urban areas are the best -- and the area where NHD is the worst - and many stream are gone

NHD watershed vs what's actually there

stream mapping in urban areas -- with OSM --

seth: how to reconcile ?

paul: that's a difficult question -- ex topi osm

seth: and where the data disagrees --

paul and more is not necessarily better -

jeanny: using improved dataset

daniel: OSM with hidden layers -- so much data ppl want to put in - map themes -- watershed boundaries important for open map --

richard: watersheds are everything -- watershed, sub and reach tertiary primary basins -- headwaters - it's critical -

richard -- tile drainages directed flow -- ground water -- soil types - etc

open environmental map --

gregor: lots of parts of the world -- nothing -- for most of the world -- mapping focused buildings and streets -- areas of the world -- for location are the rivers -- visualizing telling stories ecuadorian base tiles - amazon is flat -- got ecuadorian datasets -- miles away from satellite map -- OSM has most accurately traced data -- really important to get river data in there -- getting people to map rivers

focusing on rivers --

tamara -- get base data --

GIS / ISM / climate change -- change detection & climate change

where does it fit -- not all geo data should be in

OSM -- watershed boundaries do not belong

tamara: ppl in africa mapping mosquito ponds -- helping with health -- implication of OSM more than

straight import --

imports-us -- serge -- most anti import person


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