Charge Questions

To guide the efforts of participants, the following questions are examples of some water management actions and policies that could be guided by the data-related work of participants:

  1. How might data be used to help describe and make informed decisions about the reliability of water supply in California in the following or other relevant areas?
    • Water availability (e.g., water inventories, flows, groundwater availability)
    • Water uses (i.e. urban, agriculture, environment)
    • Water conservation and water efficiency in the urban and agricultural sectors
    • Water losses (e.g., leaks, evapotranspiration, etc.)
    • Water waste
  2. How might data be used to help describe and make informed decisions about protecting and restoring important species and habitat in the following or other relevant areas?
    • Environmental flows
    • Water quality monitoring techniques and strategies
    • Water quality information and analysis
    • Water quality protection
  3. How might data be used to help describe and make informed decisions about more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system in California, in light of the following factors?
    • Water scarcity and drought
    • Climate change and population
    • Water supply disruptions and flood protection and other unforeseen pressures
    • Integrated forecasting of agriculture, urban and environment water quantity, quality and demand
    • Integrating water quantity and quality operations of California’s water systems
    • Water prices and water markets
    • Land use linkages to water resources
    • Households/communities that do not have safe drinking water

The Charge Questions for the challenge are based on California Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 California Water Action Plan(Action Plan) and the White House Federal Action Plan of the National Drought Resilience Partnership. The California Water Action Plan acknowledges specific challenges for managing California’s water resources (uncertain water supplies, water scarcity/drought, declining groundwater supplies, poor water quality, declining native fish species and loss of wildlife habitat, floods, supply disruptions, and the impacts of population growth and climate change on these risks), stating that, “There is broad agreement that the state’s water management system is currently unable to satisfactorily meet both ecological and human needs, too exposed to wet and dry climate cycles and natural disasters, and inadequate to handle the additional pressures of future population growth and climate change.” The Federal Action Plan details Federal priorities in data collection and integration, communicating about drought risk, planning, coordination, market-based approaches, and innovation. In 2016, President Obama directed more actions by Federal agencies, stating that, “drought affects millions of Americans and poses a serious and growing threat to the security and economies of communities nationwide.”

The goal of the California Water Data Challenge is to provide meaningful information to support the Action Plan by creating new information that fits into one or more of the categories defined below:

  • Data Visualizations and Insights: Products that synthesize, analyze, and visualize available datasets to reveal previously unrecognized truths or explore common assumptions about water and water management in California, help to draw links and demonstrate connections between different water-related issues, illuminate ongoing challenges, and/or highlight overlooked issues and demonstrate their importance.
  • Decision Support, Data Sharing and Information Communication Tools: Applications which use real-time or recent data to directly assist the public, water managers, regulators and others whose decisions impact water resources with effectively and efficiently making decisions resulting in more sustainable management of our resources.

The participants will be encouraged to use at least one of the “open data” water datasets currently available via either on the National Water Quality Data Portal located at or the State of California’s open data platform, operated by the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps), and located at A list of potential sources of other datasets is also provided on the data page. Specific, Federal datasets to consider are the Central Valley Project operated by the Bureau of Reclamation; datasets on lakes, rivers and other surface water maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey; and Climate Resilience Toolkit datasets from NOAA.