Friday January 26, 2024

Water Education Foundation

For a state that prides itself on technological innovation, California is surprisingly antiquated when it comes to accessing fundamental facts about its most critical natural resource – water.

Most anywhere else in the West, basic water rights information such as who is using how much water, for what purpose, when, and where can be pulled up on a laptop or smartphone.

In California, just figuring out who holds a water right requires a trip to a downtown Sacramento storage room crammed with millions of paper and microfilmed records dating to the mid-1800s. Even the state’s water rights enforcers struggle to determine who is using what.

Information that can help decide who takes water cuts first during a drought or resolve water rights disputes must be unearthed by a librarian from the room’s maze of industrial filing cabinets and cardboard record boxes. The files can contain a hodgepodge of hand-written records on tattered paper, sepia photos, floppy disks and sprawling maps that require multiple staff to unfurl.

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