California Water Data Challenge 2022

Assessing What We Know and Building a Resilient Future

Data has the power to help us see challenges through different lenses, discover solutions that may not otherwise be evident, and put tools into the hands of those who need them most — empowering the community to work together in new ways. The Water Data Challenge organizers encourage participants to consider the topics and questions below as inspiration.  

Challenge Questions

Racial Equity Demands We Center on the Most Vulnerable Communities: How Might We Do This?

As noted in this Challenge background video, many Californians and residents of Tribal territory within the boundaries of California are at risk of drinking contaminated water or having their water supply interrupted during drought and non-drought conditions alike. Communities lacking access to safe drinking water often have additional burdens placed on them because of historic racist institutions and systems constructed over the past century. Racial equity efforts aim to dismantle these layers of government-built and maintained structures. This year’s challenge centers on race, because in almost all root-cause analyses, the most vulnerable communities are those where community and individual identities are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. See Malawa et al., 2021; Bailey et al., 2017, UC Berkeley Other and Belonging Institute’s Roots of Structural Racism Project, and California Water Board’s Racial Equity Resources for more information

Projects in this area could focus on:

    • Understanding the interests of our most vulnerable communities, and how race and other factors affect access to water resources. 
    • Building anti-racist decision-making tools to better support and align with the water resource needs and interests of our most vulnerable communities.

Potentially relevant datasets and data resource platforms:

Policies and Regulations Have Real Impacts on Real People: Do We Fully Understand the Impacts of Water, Natural Resource, and Health-related Policy and Regulations?

Government generally has a mission to serve the public. When it comes to water, natural resources, and health outcomes, this means we are people who implement (and in some cases develop) statutes, regulations, and policies (e.g., toxicity control, health services, fire preparedness) that shape the availability, accessibility, and quality of natural resources and peoples’ life outcomes throughout California and beyond. Regulations may impact communities differently, depending upon their vulnerability to climate impacts and changes in natural resource availability, accessibility, and quality.

Projects in this area could focus on:

    • Exploring whether government policies and regulatory work (permits, inspections, programs, etc.) are doing and prioritizing what they intend and defining how government policies and regulatory work can better meet community needs and intended outcomes. 
    • Evaluating the alignment of government policies and regulatory work with vital outcomes in vulnerable communities (e.g., preparedness for drought, floods, wildfire). 

Potentially relevant datasets and data resource platforms:

Government Data Belongs to All: Are We Succeeding in Making Data Accessible to Everyone?

All people should have opportunities to learn about and contribute to community discussion and action around open water data. With such a broad array of cultures, implicit biases, and degrees of technological literacy within California, how can we provide access and opportunities more widely? 

Projects in this area could focus on: 

    • Developing tools and methods to support decision makers in efforts to:
        • Communicate more effectively with Tribal partners, stakeholders, and communities
        • Provide context, data-driven insights, and transparency to a broad audience
        • Improve plain language and language accessibility for those communities most at risk
    • Discovering how we can make open water data “come to life” and provide opportunities for community participation. 
    • Exploring how government data can better support community-derived knowledge and decision-making strategies. 

Potentially relevant datasets and data resource platforms:

Open and Transparent Water Data Are Foundational to Operationalizing Systemic Justice and Equity: Can We Improve the Quality and Usability of Our Data and Metadata? 

With the implementation of the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755, 2016), state agencies continue to publish and improve open datasets relevant to water and ecology. These data could provide information that is vital to helping Tribes, communities, advocates, and other organizations help the government do better across the water field and in communities addressing urgent water challenges. 

Projects in this area could focus on:

    • Elevating open water data as a priority issue among a number of challenges faced by underserved communities.
    • Improving existing and emerging data collection processes and analysis. 
    • Developing frameworks or tools to improve the quality, usability, and reproducibility of water data and data-enabled analysis.
    • Improving our understanding of current data richness and resolution as it relates to historically redlined areas or communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental impacts. What data do we have? How much do we have? Where is it? Are the ways we catalog it now helpful or are there other/better ways we should consider? Is the existing data richness and resolution sufficient to answer community-centered questions? How might braiding that information together help inform and guide more equitable data collection, management, and enforcement decisions in the future?

Potentially relevant datasets and data resource platforms:

Web & Application Accessibility Resources

California State Agencies are in the process of modifying their websites to satisfy World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Ideally, any products, web applications, tools, and resources developed and submitted to the California Water Data Challenge would do their best to align with those guidelines. For example, data visualizations and maps should use high contrast colors, a combination of colors and symbol shapes, and alternative text to make differences distinct and accessible to all users.

Accessibility Resources: