Water Equity

Exploring the Dynamics of Rationing and Drought in California

This visualization won BERC's Cleanweb people's choice award in 2015, we later presented the data at the American Geophysical Union in 2017. Here is a link to the poster we presented . Below is the data and how we presented it to the hackathon. Here is a link to the repository that has the code and data, e-mail us if you have any questions!

Since 2011 many areas across California have experienced their drighest years on record, with conditions barely improving, and in some cases worsening, since then. Reservoirs and snowpack water content have recorded some of the lowest measurements ever recorded, with users (individuals, towns and cities) using groundwater to buffer the potentially devastating effects of the drought. Among other strategies, rationing has been one of they key strategies that the state has adopted to better manage its water resources. April 1st 2015 marked the first day in California's history when mandatory water reductions were instated state wide. By using an executive order, Governor Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to impose a 25% reduction on California's 400 local water supply agencies, which serve 90% of California residents. Since then, local agencies have been responsible for allocating restrictions to reduce water consumption and monitor compliance.

A variety of research organizations and media outlets have begun exploring the equity considerations of the drought, but the analysis is often one dimensional. The focus is largely on water consumption per capita, and leaves out other important societal factors such as spatial distribution, weather, drought related climate variables, economic sectors, race, localized income inequality, household size, and income per capita, among other things. More recent information has also highlighted brewing tension between neighbors regarding water restrictinos and mandates. The drought has elucidated large inequalities, where high-income communities guzzle water and poorer ones conserve water by necessity . While water restrictions have attempted to address these inequeties by imposing tighter conservation standars on large consumers, high-income households still consume much more water than low-income households, even after a 30% reduction in their water consumption . Starting 2015, and after complaints from several towns across California , restrictions will be lowered (22%) and will take into account a number of other factors (regional climate, water source, and local population growth) when setting water saving targets. Altough an effort has begun to include other factors, it is hard to understand and visualize how all these dynamics relate to each other.

Our project explores the multi-dimensional dynamics of rationing and drought in California. Inspired by similar work done by the Pacific Institute, we use a variety of data sources (Census and California Water Resources Board) to extend earlier efforts and build a more holistic approach. Our parralel coordinates visualization, map, and time series below explore drought and rationing dynamics across the state. Toggle and select different axis to group and cluster cities and to understand how different social-environmental factors relate to each other. We hope this tool is useful for journalists and policy makers in better understanding how mutiple factors should be taken into account when evaluating drought decision making in California.


Diego Ponce de Leon Barido (diego.leon@berkeley.edu), Jonathan Coignard (jcoignard@lbl.gov), Karina Cucchi (karina.cucchi@gmail.com), Benjamin Fildier (benjamin.fildier@gmail.com), Albert Yuen (albertyuen8@gmail.com)