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Even in drought, key Calfornia data on water wells remains restricted




Drillers are bringing in large rigs like this one from all over the west, to drill deeper wells in the quest for water.
Drillers are bringing in large rigs like this one from all over the west, to drill deeper wells in the quest for water.
Sasha Khokha/KQED

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In the middle of the California drought — one of the worst in recorded history — you'd think that scientists and water policy experts would have full access to all state records that contain information about the state's groundwater supply, a precious resource.

It turns out that the state keeps these locked up in a warehouse and only government researchers can access them. The issue is the subject of a recent article in the Sacramento Bee

All this has led to a fight, not over the water itself, but over who has access to data about that water.

"It's kind of like trying to make a road map without any information about where the roads are," Graham Fogg, professor of hydrogeology at the University of California, Davis told Take Two.

Ground water provides about 40 percent of the state's drinking water. About 95 percent of California's freshwater is underground, according to Fogg. The state drilling records on wells provide a picture into what's going on beneath the ground.

"It's a complex system and these wells are one of the few little pictures into the subsurface," said Fogg. "It's just fundamental information for understanding these systems."