UPWARD project: Bringing California water rights data into the digital domain

Hands catching water
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

In January 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board launched a new project called Updating Water Rights Data for California (UPWARD California) to improve how the state collects and manages its water rights data and information.  The new platform, The California Water Accounting, Tracking, and Reporting System or Cal-WATRS, will replace the current eWRIMS system and is expected to be operational in 2025.

There are over one hundred years of data on California’s water rights, with much of it still on paper records.  The current system, eWRIMS, was built in the early 2000s to collect fees from water users, not necessarily to collect data.  It’s not particularly user-friendly, the documentation isn’t current, and it’s hard to update as regulations and policies change.

The new system will be much more user-friendly and include initial data checking and GIS reporting of spatial features, such as points of diversion and places of use.  An electronic content management system will make it easier to find documents and correspondence.  The system will also allow the collection of water use data more frequently than annually, such as monthly, and even real-time data where available. 

The project includes digitizing existing records, and given the large number of paper records, it will take a few years to complete.  Special steps will be taken to ensure documents are ADA accessible, although there is some question of whether documents a hundred years old can be remediated.

Staff hopes to demo some systems functions in 2024, with the new system becoming operational in 2025.  The data in the current eWRIMS system will remain available but no longer be updated. 

During the Q&A period, several commenters expressed a concern that the new system will add additional tasks for those already subject to numerous reporting requirements.  The staff assured that the new system will not change reporting requirements or fees; it’s intended to simplify the reporting process.
You can find more information on the project here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/upward/