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 The state’s current water rights data system is outdated and lacks features that would make water rights reporting simpler and public access to information easier.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 completed the technical planning phase and is currently in the first of two software development phases. The initial development phase includes building the foundational functions of the new data system, identifying areas that may need additional attention in subsequent development phases, and setting up the paper document digitization equipment and scanning processes. Development will continue into 2024, with an initial demonstration of the system’s core functions anticipated by Summer 2024. A second development phase will follow the initial demonstration where the system will be built out to full specification in 2025. 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 - Software development contractor selection process began
  • February 2023 – Development contract awarded to Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • March 2023 - Data system planning phase begins with Deloitte
  • May 2023 - Public outreach begins (UPWARD Public Webinar)
  • Summer 2023 – Advisory Group formed and formal system development begins
  • Spring/Summer 2024 – Initial demonstration of the data system core functionality
  • 2025 – Data system is made available for water rights reporting

Opportunities for Input

UPWARD Advisory Group

The Board formed the UPWARD Advisory Group to engage with experts and interested parties who are willing to lend their skills, guidance, and knowledge to help the Board achieve the goals of the UPWARD project. Applications for the UPWARD Advisory Group closed on July 28th, 2023. The UPWARD Advisory Group Charter outlines expectations and member responsibilities.

Supporting the Board's commitment to engage impacted communities, California Native American Tribes, and the public at large in decision-making processes and projects, the UPWARD Advisory Group will serve as the public voice of the UPWARD project. The group will facilitate development of the Board's new water rights data system by providing advice and feedback to ensure the new system accommodates the various needs of California’s water rights communities.

The first UPWARD Advisory Group meeting was held September 19, 2023. The next Advisory Group meeting will be held in Spring 2024. Slides and a link to a video of the meeting can be found here:

UPWARD Public Webinar

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

Workshop Materials:

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Contact Us

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