Updating Water Rights Data for California (UPWARD)

The State Water Board is launching a new project called Updating Water Rights Data for California (UPWARD) to improve the way the state collects and manages its water rights data and information. California’s water rights data includes information on water use, demand, and when and how water is diverted from streams and rivers. This type of information is critical for data-driven water management decisions, particularly when hydrology affects supply, such as drought. The state’s current water rights data system is outdated and lacks features that would make water rights reporting simpler and public access to information easier. UPWARD will create a 21st century, modern platform that is crucial for California’s long-term water resilience in the face of ongoing climate change.


California water right holders are required to report information to the State Water Board about their water use and the methods they use to divert water from streams. This information provides the foundation for data-driven water management decisions, which are becoming increasingly important to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the people and natural resources of our state. The state’s current water rights data system lacks basic functionality to collect high-quality water use data, streamline and guide reporters through the reporting processes, and ensure open and transparent public access to water information. Furthermore, millions of water rights records (dating back to the late 1800s) are stuck in paper format and cannot be accessed online.

In 2021, the Board initiated the UPWARD project to remedy the impacts of our aging data system, improve our data processes, and advance our ability to collect, manage, and provide water rights data to the public, as called for by the California Water Resilience Portfolio and the California Water Supply Strategy.

UPWARD will create a modern electronic content management system that streamlines water rights online reporting processes and guides users through the system, step-by-step. The GIS-driven data system will help water right holders, staff, and the public find and access water rights records, including providing access to digitized records currently stored on paper. The new system will also accept real-time telemetric water use data. Specific details about system capabilities will be available as development progresses.

Project Status

UPWARD is currently in the technical planning phase. This phase includes looking for gaps in our business processes, identifying new workflows for water right holders and staff and finalizing the “blueprint” for the future data system. The development phase for the new data system is expected to begin later this summer, with an initial demonstration of the system’s core functions anticipated by Fall 2024. Please see the Anticipated Project Timeline section below for more information about the overall project timeline.

Anticipated Project Timeline

  • July 2021 - UPWARD project funding approved
  • January 2022 - System implementation contractor selection process began
  • February 2023 - Contract awarded to Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • March 2023 - Data system planning phase begins
  • May 2023 - Public outreach begins (UPWARD Public Webinar)
  • Summer 2023 - Advisory group formed and system development begins
  • Fall 2024 – Initial demonstration of the data system core functionality
  • Fall 2025 – Data system is made available for water rights reporting

Opportunities for Input

UPWARD Public Webinar

Our first public outreach webinar was held on May 19th, 2023, at 10:30am. State Water Board staff went over the history of the UPWARD project, anticipated timelines, outcomes, and more and participants were able to ask questions. The May 19th webinar was held online via Zoom.

Workshop Details:

Workshop Materials:

UPWARD Advisory Group

This summer, the Water Board will form an advisory group to serve as the public voice of the UPWARD project. The advisory group will facilitate development of the new data system by providing advice and feedback to the Water Board to ensure stakeholder needs are best accommodated by the new functions of the data system. Applications to become an advisory group member will be circulated this summer. Check back soon for details!

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Contact Us

UPWARD general email account (ideas, questions, concerns): Email: upward@waterboards.ca.gov