Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California

July 2021

Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California report cover

California’s complex water management challenges are growing and intensifying. Systemic stressors like the more frequent and severe droughts and floods driven by climate change are only making it harder to respond. Accordingly, California needs to dramatically improve the ability of local, regional, and State entities to make agile and effective water management decisions. We believe doing so will require enhanced understanding of our water resources and how they align with the needs of a range of agencies and stakeholders. Water rights data provide a crucial opportunity for advancing this understanding.

Homepage of the California Water Rights Pilot Database

Through a multi-year process of research and engagement, we developed analytical background on how water rights data plays into water management on a broader scale, combined with legal and institutional analysis. We then designed and built the foundation of a water rights documents database, scanning, digitizing, and assigning metadata to over 130,000 pages of water rights documents from the Mono Basin. The resulting database provides a concrete proof of concept for a searchable digital database of legal records.

Ultimately, we find that a modernized water rights data is feasible, affordable, and can increase clarity for better decision making. Our report offers a vision and roadmap for making it a reality.



Download the report

Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California

Explore the pilot database (registration required)

California Water Rights Search Prototype

See our op-ed in the Los Angeles Times

Op-Ed: In drought-stricken California, who owns water rights can still be a mystery

For more information

Contact Mike Kiparsky, Director of the Wheeler Water Institute.