Advanced Tools for Consolidation of California’s groundwater data

As California faces increasing demand for water supply, it is key for policymakers and the public to understand the quantity and quality of data being used to make statewide decisions. The Berkeley Water Center, Berkeley’s Geospatial Innovation Facility, and the UC Davis Information Center for the Environment are collaborating to make California’s groundwater data more accessible to the research community and the general public.

The CITRIS researchers are developing web interfaces to search, subset, and visualize data in a variety of formats using the latest web applications, including GIS. They are also working to create appropriate crosswalks between data sets and making the reports available in digital form.

The objective of this pilot research was to provide proof of concept for acquiring, consolidating, digitizing, and developing data products from unstandardized and analog groundwater data. This pilot research integrated archival groundwater data from the 1950s in Fresno and Kings counties into a digital spatial database by 1) geo-referencing historic maps, 2) digitizing well locations from the maps, 3) entered all well data into a database, and 4) linking well location with well data through a GIS-based relational database. Useful information on the condition of groundwater in the area and time period was successfully digitized, extracted, and analyzed from the original analog archival data. Statistical and spatial analyses of the digitized data provide a detailed picture of the state of groundwater in this area in the 1950s.

This research illustrates the process and possibilities of taking old, static, and paper maps and tables of groundwater information and transforming them into a dynamic, malleable, spatial digital database that can be used to conduct a multitude of research. Transferring historical groundwater data from dispersed, paper based, and unstandardized archives into standardized digital formats can make the data more easily accessible to the public, scientific researchers, and policy makers. Digital spatial data pared with the growing reach and ubiquity of internet based technologies has the potential to expand the use and value of these data.