Water is always a contentious issue in California. With 38 million thirsty people, a $43 billion agriculture industry, often erratic rainfall, and a bewildering tangle of policies, it's no wonder.
The creators of anew California water atlas are hoping to make data on the state’s water resources more accessible and comprehensible through a series of interactive maps.
“We’re hoping we can inspire dialogue around some of these policy issues,” says Laci Videmsky, a designer and one of the directors of the project, which is funded by Patagonia and the Resource Renewal Institute, a non-profit organization based in Mill Valley, California. Videmsky and his co-director Chacha Sikes, a programmer, hope the new digital atlas will help journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens learn more about how water is allocated and used in the state.
The duo met last year at Code for Oakland, a hackathon for civic-minded software developers, and started brainstorming projects that could have state-wide impact.
Chacha Sikes (left) and Laci Videmsky. Photo: Alex Washburn/Wired
A major inspiration for the new project was a1979 water atlas commissioned by California governor Jerry Brown (yes, he was governor back then too). The book became a cult classic among cartography geeks for its beautiful maps and infographics, Videmsky says, but it didn’t reach many people and didn’t have much impact on water policy.