Center for Law, Energy & the Environment Publications

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With California’s drought risk, flood risk, and demand for water all increasing, effective monitoring is more important than ever to water decision making. Stream gages monitor the most basic vital sign of California’s waterways—stream flow.1 Stream flow data support day-to-day decisions about how to manage water and operate water infrastructure. In turn, those decisions have important implications for flood control and the water supplies upon which residential, industrial, agricultural, and environmental water users depend. Stream flow information also provides technical insights into basin hydrology, and those insights aid long-term water planning. As pressures on the state’s water systems intensify, the need for accurate and timely stream flow information will continue to grow. Opportunities for better water management created by groundbreaking legislation such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the Open and Transparent Water Data Act, and Proposition 1 will be severely limited without an effective network of continuous stream gaging.